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Title: A Literary History of the Arabs
Author: Nicholson, Reynold, 1868-1945
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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From an Arabic manuscript in the British Museum (Or. 1200; No. 1007 in
Rieu's _Arabic Supplement_), dated A.H. 654 = A.D. 1256, which
contains the _Maqámȧt_ of Ḥarìrì illustrated by 81 miniatures in
colours. This one represents a scene in the 8th Maqáma: Abú Zayd and
his son appearing before the Cadi of Ma‘arratu ’l-Nu’mán. The figure
on the left is Ḥárith b. Hammám, whom Ḥarìrì puts forward as the
relater of Abú Zayd's adventures.]









  Bentley House, 200 Euston Road, London, N.W. 1
  American Branch: 32 East 57th Street, New York N.Y. 10022,
  West African Office: P.O. Box 33, Ibadan, Nigeria

  First edition (T. Fisher Unwin) 1907, reprinted 1914, 1923
  Reprinted (Cambridge University Press) 1930, 1941, 1953,
  1962, 1966

  _First printed in Great Britain at the University Press, Cambridge
  Reprinted by offset-litho by Latimer Trend & Co. Ltd, Whitstable_



  In grateful recollection of many kindnesses


_A Literary History of the Arabs_, published by T. Fisher Unwin in
1907 and twice re-issued without alteration, now appears under new
auspices, and I wish to thank the Syndics of the Cambridge University
Press for the opportunity they have given me of making it in some
respects more accurate and useful than it has hitherto been. Since the
present edition is printed from the original plates, there could be no
question of revising the book throughout and recasting it where
necessary; but while only a few pages have been rewritten, the
Bibliography has been brought up to date and I have removed several
mistakes from the text and corrected others in an appendix which
includes a certain amount of supplementary matter. As stated in the
preface to the first edition, I hoped "to compile a work which should
serve as a general introduction to the subject, and which should be
neither too popular for students nor too scientific for ordinary
readers. It has been my chief aim to sketch in broad outlines what the
Arabs thought, and to indicate as far as possible the influences which
moulded their thought.... Experience has convinced me that young
students of Arabic, to whom this volume is principally addressed,
often find difficulty in understanding what they read, since they are
not in touch with the political, intellectual, and religious notions
which are presented to them. The pages of almost every Arabic book
abound in allusions to names, events, movements, and ideas of which
Moslems require no explanation, but which puzzle the Western reader
unless he have some general knowledge of Arabian history in the widest
meaning of the word. Such a survey is not to be found, I believe, in
any single European book; and if mine supply the want, however
partially and inadequately, I shall feel that my labour has been amply
rewarded.... As regards the choice of topics, I agree with the author
of a famous anthology who declares that it is harder to select than
compose (_ikhtiyáru ’l-kalám aṣ‘abu min ta’lífihi_). Perhaps an
epitomist may be excused for not doing equal justice all round. To me
the literary side of the subject appeals more than the historical, and
I have followed my bent without hesitation; for in order to interest
others a writer must first be interested himself.... Considering the
importance of Arabic poetry as, in the main, a true mirror of Arabian
life, I do not think the space devoted to it is excessive. Other
branches of literature could not receive the same attention. Many an
eminent writer has been dismissed in a few lines, many well-known
names have been passed over. But, as before said, this work is a
sketch of ideas in their historical environment rather than a record
of authors, books, and dates. The exact transliteration of Arabic
words, though superfluous for scholars and for persons entirely
ignorant of the language, is an almost indispensable aid to the class
of readers whom I have especially in view. My system is that
recommended by the Royal Asiatic Society and adopted by Professor
Browne in his _Literary History of Persia_; but I use ẓ for the letter
which he denotes by _dh_. The definite article _al_, which is
frequently omitted at the beginning of proper names, has been restored
in the Index. It may save trouble if I mention here the abbreviations
'b.' for 'ibn' (son of); J.R.A.S. for _Journal of the Royal Asiatic
Society_; Z.D.M.G. for _Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen
Gesellschaft_; and S.B.W.A. for _Sitzungsberichte der Wiener
Akademie_. Finally, it behoves me to make full acknowledgment of my
debt to the learned Orientalists whose works I have studied and freely
'conveyed' into these pages. References could not be given in every
case, but the reader will see for himself how much is derived from Von
Kremer, Goldziher, Nöldeke, and Wellhausen, to mention only a few of
the leading authorities. At the same time I have constantly gone back
to the native sources of information."

There remains an acknowledgment of a more personal kind. Twenty-two
years ago I wrote--"my warmest thanks are due to my friend and
colleague, Professor A. A. Bevan, who read the proofs throughout and
made a number of valuable remarks which will be found in the footnotes."
Happily the present occasion permits me to renew those ties between us;
and the book which he helped into the world now celebrates its majority
by associating itself with his name.


 _November 1, 1929_


LITIGANTS BEFORE A JUDGE (British Museum Or. 1200)



  PREFACE                                                        ix

  INTRODUCTION                                                   xv


     I. SABA AND ḤIMYAR                                           1



    IV. THE PROPHET AND THE KORAN                               141

          DYNASTY                                               181

    VI. THE CALIPHS OF BAGHDÁD                                  254

          PERIOD                                                285


    IX. THE ARABS IN EUROPE                                     405


  APPENDIX                                                      471

  BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                  477

  INDEX                                                         487


[Sidenote: The Semites.]

The Arabs belong to the great family of nations which on account of
their supposed descent from Shem, the son of Noah, are commonly known as
the 'Semites.' This term includes the Babylonians and Assyrians, the
Hebrews, the Phœnicians, the Aramæans, the Abyssinians, the Sabæans, and
the Arabs, and although based on a classification that is not
ethnologically precise--the Phœnicians and Sabæans, for example, being
reckoned in Genesis, chap. x, among the descendants of Ham--it was well
chosen by Eichhorn († 1827) to comprehend the closely allied peoples
which have been named. Whether the original home of the undivided
Semitic race was some part of Asia (Arabia, Armenia, or the district of
the Lower Euphrates), or whether, according to a view which has lately
found favour, the Semites crossed into Asia from Africa,[1] is still
uncertain. Long before the epoch when they first appear in history they
had branched off from the parent stock and formed separate
nationalities. The relation of the Semitic languages to each other
cannot be discussed here, but we may arrange them in the chronological
order of the extant literature as follows:--[2]

  1. Babylonian or Assyrian (3000-500 B.C.).

  2. Hebrew (from 1500 B.C.).

  3. South Arabic, otherwise called Sabæan or Ḥimyarite (inscriptions
       from 800 B.C.).

  4. Aramaic (inscriptions from 800 B.C.).

  5. Phœnician (inscriptions from 700 B.C.).

  6. Æthiopic (inscriptions from 350 A.D.).

  7. Arabic (from 500 A.D.).

[Sidenote: The Arabs as representatives of the Semitic Race.]

Notwithstanding that Arabic is thus, in a sense, the youngest of the
Semitic languages, it is generally allowed to be nearer akin than any of
them to the original archetype, the 'Ursemitisch,' from which they all
are derived, just as the Arabs, by reason of their geographical
situation and the monotonous uniformity of desert life, have in some
respects preserved the Semitic character more purely and exhibited it
more distinctly than any people of the same family. From the period of
the great Moslem conquests (700 A.D.) to the present day they have
extended their language, religion, and culture over an enormous expanse
of territory, far surpassing that of all the ancient Semitic empires
added together. It is true that the Arabs are no longer what they were
in the Middle Ages, the ruling nation of the world, but loss of temporal
power has only strengthened their spiritual dominion. Islam still reigns
supreme in Western Asia; in Africa it has steadily advanced; even on
European soil it has found in Turkey compensation for its banishment
from Spain and Sicily. While most of the Semitic peoples have vanished,
leaving but a meagre and ambiguous record, so that we cannot hope to
become intimately acquainted with them, we possess in the case of the
Arabs ample materials for studying almost every phase of their
development since the sixth century of the Christian era, and for
writing the whole history of their national life and thought. This book,
I need hardly say, makes no such pretensions. Even were the space at my
disposal unlimited, a long time must elapse before the vast and various
field of Arabic literature can be thoroughly explored and the results
rendered accessible to the historian.

[Sidenote: Arabs of the North and South.]

From time immemorial Arabia was divided into North and South, not only
by the trackless desert (_al-Rub‘ al-Khálí_, the 'Solitary Quarter')
which stretches across the peninsula and forms a natural barrier to
intercourse, but also by the opposition of two kindred races widely
differing in their character and way of life. Whilst the inhabitants of
the northern province (the Ḥijáz and the great central highland of Najd)
were rude nomads sheltering in 'houses of hair,' and ever shifting to
and fro in search of pasture for their camels, the people of Yemen or
Arabia Felix are first mentioned in history as the inheritors of an
ancient civilisation and as the owners of fabulous wealth--spices, gold
and precious stones--which ministered to the luxury of King Solomon. The
Bedouins of the North spoke Arabic--that is to say, the language of the
Pre-islamic poems and of the Koran--whereas the southerners used a
dialect called by Muḥammadans 'Ḥimyarite' and a peculiar script of which
the examples known to us have been discovered and deciphered in
comparatively recent times. Of these Sabæans--to adopt the designation
given to them by Greek and Roman geographers--more will be said
presently. The period of their bloom was drawing to a close in the early
centuries of our era, and they have faded out of history before 600
A.D., when their northern neighbours first rise into prominence.

[Sidenote: Ishmaelites and Yoqṭánids.]

It was, no doubt, the consciousness of this racial distinction that
caused the view to prevail among Moslem genealogists that the Arabs
followed two separate lines of descent from their common ancestor, Sám
b. Núḥ (Shem, the son of Noah). As regards those of the North, their
derivation from ‘Adnán, a descendant of Ismá‘íl (Ishmael) was
universally recognised; those of the South were traced back to Qaḥṭán,
whom most genealogists identified with Yoqṭán (Joktan), the son of ‘Ábir
(Eber). Under the Yoqṭánids, who are the elder line, we find, together
with the Sabæans and Ḥimyarites, several large and powerful
tribes--_e.g._, Ṭayyi’, Kinda, and Tanúkh--which had settled in North
and Central Arabia long before Islam, and were in no respect
distinguishable from the Bedouins of Ishmaelite origin. As to ‘Adnán,
his exact genealogy is disputed, but all agree that he was of the
posterity of Ismá‘íl (Ishmael), the son of Ibráhím (Abraham) by Hájar
(Hagar). The story runs that on the birth of Ismá‘íl God commanded
Abraham to journey to Mecca with Hagar and her son and to leave them
there. They were seen by some Jurhumites, descendants of Yoqṭán, who
took pity on them and resolved to settle beside them. Ismá‘íl grew up
with the sons of the strangers, learned to shoot the bow, and spoke
their tongue. Then he asked of them in marriage, and they married him to
one of their women.[3] The tables on the opposite page show the
principal branches of the younger but by far the more important family
of the Arabs which traced its pedigree through ‘Adnán to Ismá‘íl. A
dotted line indicates the omission of one or more links in the
genealogical chain.[4]


                  THE DESCENDENTS OF RABI‘A.

      │                       │                        │
   ‘Anaza.                    │                        │
                            Wá’il.                   Namir.
                        │           │
                       Bakr.      Taghlib.


                 THE DESCENDANTS OF MUḐAR.

          │                   │ .                      .
          │                   │   .                  .   .
     Qays ‘Aylán              │     .              .       .
          .                  Ḍabba.  .         Khuzayma. Hudhayl.
        .    .                         .           .
   Ghaṭafán.    .                     Tamím.      .  .
      │           .                             .     .
      │      ┌─────────┐                      .        .
      │      │         │                    Asad.    Kinána.
      │   Sulaym.  Hawázin.                            │
      │                                                │
   ┌────────┐                                          │
   │        │                                          │
  Abs.  Dhubyán.                                     Fihr (Quraysh).

[Sidenote: Character of Muḥammadan genealogy.]

It is undeniable that these lineages are to some extent fictitious.
There was no Pre-islamic science of genealogy, so that the first
Muḥammadan investigators had only confused and scanty traditions to work
on. They were biassed, moreover, by political, religious, and other
considerations.[6] Thus their study of the Koran and of Biblical history
led to the introduction of the patriarchs who stand at the head of their
lists. Nor can we accept the national genealogy beginning with ‘Adnán as
entirely historical, though a great deal of it was actually stored in
the memories of the Arabs at the time when Islam arose, and is
corroborated by the testimony of the Pre-islamic poets.[7] On the other
hand, the alleged descent of every tribe from an eponymous ancestor is
inconsistent with facts established by modern research.[8] It is
probable that many names represent merely a local or accidental union;
and many more, _e.g._, Ma‘add, seem originally to have denoted large
groups or confederations of tribes. The theory of a radical difference
between the Northern Arabs and those of the South, corresponding to the
fierce hostility which has always divided them since the earliest days
of Islam,[9] may hold good if we restrict the term 'Yemenite' (Southern)
to the civilised Sabæans, Ḥimyarites, &c., who dwelt in Yemen and spoke
their own dialect, but can hardly apply to the Arabic-speaking
'Yemenite' Bedouins scattered all over the peninsula. Such criticism,
however, does not affect the value of the genealogical documents
regarded as an index of the popular mind. From this point of view legend
is often superior to fact, and it must be our aim in the following
chapters to set forth what the Arabs believed rather than to examine
whether or no they were justified in believing it.

'Arabic,' in its widest signification, has two principal dialects:--

1. South Arabic, spoken in Yemen and including Sabæan, Ḥimyarite,
Minæan, with the kindred dialects of Mahra and Shiḥr.

2. Arabic proper, spoken in Arabia generally, exclusive of Yemen.

[Sidenote: South Arabic.]

Of the former language, leaving Mahrí, Socotrí, and other living
dialects out of account, we possess nothing beyond the numerous
inscriptions which have been collected by European travellers and which
it will be convenient to discuss in the next chapter, where I shall give
a brief sketch of the legendary history of the Sabæans and Ḥimyarites.
South Arabic resembles Arabic in its grammatical forms, _e.g._, the
broken plural, the sign of the dual, and the manner of denoting
indefiniteness by an affixed _m_ (for which Arabic substitutes _n_) as
well as in its vocabulary; its alphabet, which consists of twenty-nine
letters, _Sin_ and _Samech_ being distinguished as in Hebrew, is more
nearly akin to the Æthiopic. The Ḥimyarite Empire was overthrown by the
Abyssinians in the sixth century after Christ, and by 600 A.D. South
Arabic had become a dead language. From this time forward the dialect of
the North established an almost universal supremacy and won for itself
the title of 'Arabic' _par excellence_.[10]

[Sidenote: The oldest specimens of Arabic writing.]

[Sidenote: The Pre-islamic poems.]

[Sidenote: The Koran.]

[Sidenote: Arabic in the Muḥammadan Empire.]

The oldest monuments of written Arabic are modern in date compared with
the Sabæan inscriptions, some of which take us back 2,500 years or
thereabout. Apart from the inscriptions of Ḥijr in the northern Ḥijáz,
and those of Ṣafá in the neighbourhood of Damascus (which, although
written by northern Arabs before the Christian era, exhibit a peculiar
character not unlike the Sabæan and cannot be called Arabic in the usual
acceptation of the term), the most ancient examples of Arabic writing
which have hitherto been discovered appear in the trilingual (Syriac,
Greek, and Arabic) inscription of Zabad,[11] south-east of Aleppo, dated
512 or 513 A.D., and the bilingual (Greek and Arabic) of Ḥarrán,[12]
dated 568 A.D. With these documents we need not concern ourselves
further, especially as their interpretation presents great difficulties.
Very few among the Pre-islamic Arabs were able to read or write.[13]
Those who could generally owed their skill to Jewish and Christian
teachers, or to the influence of foreign culture radiating from Ḥíra and
Ghassán. But although the Koran, which was first collected soon after
the battle of Yamáma (633 A.D.), is the oldest Arabic book, the
beginnings of literary composition in the Arabic language can be traced
back to an earlier period. Probably all the Pre-islamic poems which have
come down to us belong to the century preceding Islam (500-622 A.D.),
but their elaborate form and technical perfection forbid the hypothesis
that in them we have "the first sprightly runnings" of Arabian song. It
may be said of these magnificent odes, as of the Iliad and Odyssey, that
"they are works of highly finished art, which could not possibly have
been produced until the poetical art had been practised for a long
time." They were preserved during hundreds of years by oral tradition,
as we shall explain elsewhere, and were committed to writing, for the
most part, by the Moslem scholars of the early ‘Abbásid age, _i.e._,
between 750 and 900 A.D. It is a noteworthy fact that the language of
these poems, the authors of which represent many different tribes and
districts of the peninsula, is one and the same. The dialectical
variations are too trivial to be taken into account. We might conclude
that the poets used an artificial dialect, not such as was commonly
spoken but resembling the epic dialect of Ionia which was borrowed by
Dorian and Æolian bards. When we find, however, that the language in
question is employed not only by the wandering troubadours, who were
often men of some culture, and the Christian Arabs of Ḥíra on the
Euphrates, but also by goat-herds, brigands, and illiterate Bedouins of
every description, there can be no room for doubt that in the poetry of
the sixth century we hear the Arabic language as it was then spoken
throughout the length and breadth of Arabia. The success of Muḥammad and
the conquests made by Islam under the Orthodox Caliphs gave an entirely
new importance to this classical idiom. Arabic became the sacred
language of the whole Moslem world. This was certainly due to the Koran;
but, on the other hand, to regard the dialect of Mecca, in which the
Koran is written, as the source and prototype of the Arabic language,
and to call Arabic 'the dialect of Quraysh,' is utterly to reverse the
true facts of the case. Muḥammad, as Nöldeke has observed, took the
ancient poetry for a model; and in the early age of Islam it was the
authority of the heathen poets (of whom Quraysh had singularly few) that
determined the classical usage and set the standard of correct speech.
Moslems, who held the Koran to be the Word of God and inimitable in
point of style, naturally exalted the dialect of the Prophet's tribe
above all others, even laying down the rule that every tribe spoke less
purely in proportion to its distance from Mecca, but this view will not
commend itself to the unprejudiced student. The Koran, however,
exercised a unique influence on the history of the Arabic language and
literature. We shall see in a subsequent chapter that the necessity of
preserving the text of the Holy Book uncorrupted, and of elucidating its
obscurities, caused the Moslems to invent a science of grammar and
lexicography, and to collect the old Pre-Muḥammadan poetry and
traditions which must otherwise have perished. When the Arabs settled as
conquerors in Syria and Persia and mixed with foreign peoples, the
purity of the classical language could no longer be maintained. While in
Arabia itself, especially among the nomads of the desert, little
difference was felt, in the provincial garrison towns and great centres
of industry like Baṣra and Kúfa, where the population largely consisted
of aliens who had embraced Islam and were rapidly being Arabicised, the
door stood open for all sorts of depravation to creep in. Against this
vulgar Arabic the philologists waged unrelenting war, and it was mainly
through their exertions that the classical idiom triumphed over the
dangers to which it was exposed. Although the language of the pagan
Bedouins did not survive intact--or survived, at any rate, only in the
mouths of pedants and poets--it became, in a modified form, the
universal medium of expression among the upper classes of Muḥammadan
society. During the early Middle Ages it was spoken and written by all
cultivated Moslems, of whatever nationality they might be, from the
Indus to the Atlantic; it was the language of the Court and the Church,
of Law and Commerce, of Diplomacy and Literature and Science. When the
Mongol invasion in the thirteenth century swept away the ‘Abbásid
Caliphate, and therewith the last vestige of political unity in Islam,
classical Arabic ceased to be the κοινή or 'common dialect' of
the Moslem world, and was supplanted in Arabia, Syria, Egypt, and other
Arabic-speaking countries by a vulgar colloquial idiom. In these
countries, however, it is still the language of business, literature,
and education, and we are told on high authority that even now it "is
undergoing a renaissance, and there is every likelihood of its again
becoming a great literary vehicle."[14] And if, for those Moslems who
are not Arabs, it occupies relatively much the same position as Latin
and Greek in modern European culture, we must not forget that the Koran,
its most renowned masterpiece, is learned by every Moslem when he first
goes to school, is repeated in his daily prayers, and influences the
whole course of his life to an extent which the ordinary Christian can
hardly realise.

[Sidenote: The Nabaṭæans.]

I hope that I may be excused for ignoring in a work such as this the
information regarding Ancient Arabian history which it is possible to
glean from the Babylonian and Assyrian monuments. Any sketch that might
be drawn of the Arabs, say from 2500 B.C. to the beginning of our era,
would resemble a map of Cathay delineated by Sir John Mandeville. But
amongst the shadowy peoples of the peninsula one, besides Saba and
Ḥimyar, makes something more than a transient impression. The Nabaṭæans
(_Nabaṭ_, pl. _Anbáṭ_) dwelt in towns, drove a flourishing trade long
before the birth of Christ, and founded the kingdom of Petra, which
attained a high degree of prosperity and culture until it was annexed by
Trajan in 105 A.D. These Nabaṭæans were Arabs and spoke Arabic, although
in default of a script of their own they used Aramaic for writing.[15]
Muḥammadan authors identify them with the Aramæans, but careful study of
their inscriptions has shown that this view, which was accepted by
Quatremère,[16] is erroneous. 'The Book of Nabaṭæan Agriculture'
(_Kitábu ’l-Faláḥat al-Nabaṭiyya_), composed in 904 A.D. by the Moslem
Ibnu ’l-Waḥshiyya, who professed to have translated it from the
Chaldæan, is now known to be a forgery. I only mention it here as an
instance of the way in which Moslems apply the term 'Nabaṭæan'; for the
title in question does not, of course, refer to Petra but to Babylon.

[Sidenote: Three periods of Arabian history.]

From what has been said the reader will perceive that the history of the
Arabs, so far as our knowledge of it is derived from Arabic sources, may
be divided into the following periods:--

    I. The Sabæan and Ḥimyarite period, from 800 B.C.,
         the date of the oldest South Arabic inscriptions, to
         500 A.D.

   II. The Pre-islamic period (500-622 A.D.).

  III. The Muḥammadan period, beginning with the Migration
         (Hijra, or Hegira, as the word is generally written)
          of the Prophet from Mecca to Medína in 622 A.D.
          and extending to the present day.

[Sidenote: The Sabæans and Ḥimyarites.]

For the first period, which is confined to the history of Yemen or South
Arabia, we have no contemporary Arabic sources except the inscriptions.
The valuable but imperfect information which these supply is appreciably
increased by the traditions preserved in the Pre-islamic poems, in the
Koran, and particularly in the later Muḥammadan literature. It is true
that most of this material is legendary and would justly be ignored by
any one engaged in historical research, but I shall nevertheless devote
a good deal of space to it, since my principal object is to make known
the beliefs and opinions of the Arabs themselves.

[Sidenote: The pagan Arabs.]

The second period is called by Muḥammadan writers the _Jáhiliyya_,
_i.e._, the Age of Ignorance or Barbarism.[17] Its characteristics are
faithfully and vividly reflected in the songs and odes of the heathen
poets which have come down to us. There was no prose literature at that
time: it was the poet's privilege to sing the history of his own people,
to record their genealogies, to celebrate their feats of arms, and to
extol their virtues. Although an immense quantity of Pre-islamic verse
has been lost for ever, we still possess a considerable remnant, which,
together with the prose narratives compiled by Moslem philologists and
antiquaries, enables us to picture the life of those wild days, in its
larger aspects, accurately enough.

[Sidenote: The Moslem Arabs.]

The last and by far the most important of the three periods comprises
the history of the Arabs under Islam. It falls naturally into the
following sections, which are enumerated in this place in order that the
reader may see at a glance the broad political outlines of the complex
and difficult epoch which lies before him.

_A._ The Life of Muḥammad.

[Sidenote: Life of Muḥammad.]

About the beginning of the seventh century of the Christian era a man
named Muḥammad, son of ‘Abdulláh, of the tribe Quraysh, appeared in
Mecca with a Divine revelation (Koran). He called on his fellow-townsmen
to renounce idolatry and worship the One God. In spite of ridicule and
persecution he continued for several years to preach the religion of
Islam in Mecca, but, making little progress there, he fled in 622 A.D.
to the neighbouring city of Medína. From this date his cause prospered
exceedingly. During the next decade the whole of Arabia submitted to his
rule and did lip-service at least to the new Faith.

_B._ The Orthodox Caliphate (632-661 A.D.).

[Sidenote: The Orthodox Caliphs.]

On the death of the Prophet the Moslems were governed in turn by four of
the most eminent among his Companions--Abú Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthmán, and
‘Alí--who bore the title of _Khalífa_ (Caliph), _i.e._, Vicegerent, and
are commonly described as the Orthodox Caliphs (_al-Khulafá
al-Ráshidún_). Under their guidance Islam was firmly established in the
peninsula and was spread far beyond its borders. Hosts of Bedouins
settled as military colonists in the fertile plains of Syria and Persia.
Soon, however, the recently founded empire was plunged into civil war.
The murder of ‘Uthmán gave the signal for a bloody strife between rival
claimants of the Caliphate. ‘Alí, the son-in-law of the Prophet, assumed
the title, but his election was contested by the powerful governor of
Syria, Mu‘áwiya b. Abí Sufyán.

_C._ The Umayyad Dynasty (661-750 A.D.).

[Sidenote: The Umayyad dynasty.]

‘Alí fell by an assassin's dagger, and Mu‘áwiya succeeded to the
Caliphate, which remained in his family for ninety years. The Umayyads,
with a single exception, were Arabs first and Moslems afterwards.
Religion sat very lightly on them, but they produced some able and
energetic princes, worthy leaders of an imperial race. By 732 A.D. the
Moslem conquests had reached the utmost limit which they ever attained.
The Caliph in Damascus had his lieutenants beyond the Oxus and the
Pyrenees, on the shores of the Caspian and in the valley of the Nile.
Meantime the strength of the dynasty was being sapped by political and
religious dissensions nearer home. The Shí‘ites, who held that the
Caliphate belonged by Divine right to ‘Alí and his descendants, rose in
revolt again and again. They were joined by the Persian Moslems, who
loathed the Arabs and the oppressive Umayyad government. The ‘Abbásids,
a family closely related to the Prophet, put themselves at the head of
the agitation. It ended in the complete overthrow of the reigning house,
which was almost exterminated.

_D._ The ‘Abbásid Dynasty (750-1258 A.D.).

[Sidenote: The ‘Abbásid dynasty.]

Hitherto the Arabs had played a dominant rôle in the Moslem community,
and had treated the non-Arab Moslems with exasperating contempt. Now the
tables were turned. We pass from the period of Arabian nationalism to
one of Persian ascendancy and cosmopolitan culture. The flower of the
‘Abbásid troops were Persians from Khurásán; Baghdád, the wonderful
‘Abbásid capital, was built on Persian soil; and Persian nobles filled
the highest offices of state at the ‘Abbásid court. The new dynasty, if
not religious, was at least favourable to religion, and took care to
live in the odour of sanctity. For a time Arabs and Persians forgot
their differences and worked together as good Moslems ought. Piety was
no longer its own reward. Learning enjoyed munificent patronage. This
was the Golden Age of Islam, which culminated in the glorious reign of
Hárún al-Rashíd (786-809 A.D.). On his death peace was broken once more,
and the mighty empire began slowly to collapse. As province after
province cut itself loose from the Caliphate, numerous independent
dynasties sprang up, while the Caliphs became helpless puppets in the
hands of Turkish mercenaries. Their authority was still formally
recognised in most Muḥammadan countries, but since the middle of the
ninth century they had little or no real power.

_E._ From the Mongol invasion to the present day (1258 A.D.--).

[Sidenote: The Post-Mongolian period.]

The Mongol hordes under Húlágú captured Baghdád in 1258 A.D. and made an
end of the Caliphate. Sweeping onward, they were checked by the Egyptian
Mamelukes and retired into Persia, where, some fifty years afterwards,
they embraced Islam. The successors of Húlágú, the Íl-kháns, reigned in
Persia until a second wave of barbarians under Tímúr spread devastation
and anarchy through Western Asia (1380-1405 A.D.). The unity of Islam,
in a political sense, was now destroyed. Out of the chaos three
Muḥammadan empires gradually took shape. In 1358 the Ottoman Turks
crossed the Hellespont, in 1453 they entered Constantinople, and in 1517
Syria, Egypt, and Arabia were added to their dominions. Persia became an
independent kingdom under the Ṣafawids (1502-1736); while in India
the empire of the Great Moguls was founded by Bábur, a descendant of
Tímúr, and gloriously maintained by his successors, Akbar and Awrangzíb

[Sidenote: Arabian literary history.]

[Sidenote: Writers who are wholly or partly of foreign extraction.]

Some of the political events which have been summarised above will be
treated more fully in the body of this work; others will receive no more
than a passing notice. The ideas which reveal themselves in Arabic
literature are so intimately connected with the history of the people,
and so incomprehensible apart from the external circumstances in which
they arose, that I have found myself obliged to dwell at considerable
length on various matters of historical interest, in order to bring out
what is really characteristic and important from our special point of
view. The space devoted to the early periods (500-750 A.D.) will not
appear excessive if they are seen in their true light as the centre and
heart of Arabian history. During the next hundred years Moslem
civilisation reaches its zenith, but the Arabs recede more and more into
the background. The Mongol invasion virtually obliterated their national
life, though in Syria and Egypt they maintained their traditions of
culture under Turkish rule, and in Spain we meet them struggling
desperately against Christendom. Many centuries earlier, in the balmy
days of the ‘Abbásid Empire, the Arabs _pur sang_ contributed only a
comparatively small share to the literature which bears their name. I
have not, however, enforced the test of nationality so strictly as to
exclude all foreigners or men of mixed origin who wrote in Arabic. It
may be said that the work of Persians (who even nowadays are accustomed
to use Arabic when writing on theological and philosophical subjects)
cannot illustrate the history of Arabian thought, but only the influence
exerted upon Arabian thought by Persian ideas, and that consequently it
must stand aside unless admitted for this definite purpose. But what
shall we do in the case of those numerous and celebrated authors who are
neither wholly Arab nor wholly Persian, but unite the blood of both
races? Must we scrutinise their genealogies and try to discover which
strain preponderates? That would be a tedious and unprofitable task. The
truth is that after the Umayyad period no hard-and-fast line can be
drawn between the native and foreign elements in Arabic literature. Each
reacted on the other, and often both are combined indissolubly. Although
they must be distinguished as far as possible, we should be taking a
narrow and pedantic view of literary history if we insisted on regarding
them as mutually exclusive.



[Sidenote: Primitive races.]

[Sidenote: Legend of ‘Ad.]

With the Sabæans Arabian history in the proper sense may be said to
begin, but as a preliminary step we must take account of certain races
which figure more or less prominently in legend, and are considered by
Moslem chroniclers to have been the original inhabitants of the country.
Among these are the peoples of ‘Ád and Thamúd, which are constantly held
up in the Koran as terrible examples of the pride that goeth before
destruction. The home of the ‘Ádites was in Ḥaḍramawt, the province
adjoining Yemen, on the borders of the desert named _Aḥqáfu ’l-Raml_. It
is doubtful whether they were Semites, possibly of Aramaic descent, who
were subdued and exterminated by invaders from the north, or, as Hommel
maintains,[18] the representatives of an imposing non-Semitic culture
which survives in the tradition of 'Many-columned Iram,'[19] the Earthly
Paradise built by Shaddád, one of their kings. The story of their
destruction is related as follows:[20] They were a people of gigantic
strength and stature, worshipping idols and committing all manner of
wrong; and when God sent to them a prophet, Húd by name, who should warn
them to repent, they answered: "O Húd, thou hast brought us no evidence,
and we will not abandon our gods for thy saying, nor will we believe in
thee. We say one of our gods hath afflicted thee with madness."[21] Then
a fearful drought fell upon the land of ‘Ád, so that they sent a number
of their chief men to Mecca to pray for rain. On arriving at Mecca the
envoys were hospitably received by the Amalekite prince, Mu‘áwiya b.
Bakr, who entertained them with wine and music--for he had two famous
singing-girls known as _al-Jarádatán_; which induced them to neglect
their mission for the space of a whole month. At last, however, they got
to business, and their spokesman had scarce finished his prayer when
three clouds appeared, of different colours--white, red, and black--and
a voice cried from heaven, "Choose for thyself and for thy people!" He
chose the black cloud, deeming that it had the greatest store of rain,
whereupon the voice chanted--

  "Thou hast chosen embers dun | that will spare of ‘Ád not one | that
  will leave nor father nor son | ere him to death they shall have

Then God drove the cloud until it stood over the land of ‘Ád, and there
issued from it a roaring wind that consumed the whole people except a
few who had taken the prophet's warning to heart and had renounced

From these, in course of time, a new people arose, who are called 'the
second ‘Ád.' They had their settlements in Yemen, in the region of Saba.
The building of the great Dyke of Ma’rib is commonly attributed to their
king, Luqmán b. ‘Ád, about whom many fables are told. He was surnamed
'The Man of the Vultures' (_Dhu ’l-Nusúr_), because it had been granted
to him that he should live as long as seven vultures, one after the

[Sidenote: Legend of Thamúd.]

In North Arabia, between the Ḥijáz and Syria, dwelt the kindred race of
Thamúd, described in the Koran (vii, 72) as inhabiting houses which they
cut for themselves in the rocks. Evidently Muḥammad did not know the
true nature of the hewn chambers which are still to be seen at Ḥijr
(Madá’in Ṣáliḥ), a week's journey northward from Medína, and which are
proved by the Nabaṭæan inscriptions engraved on them to have been
sepulchral monuments.[22] Thamúd sinned in the same way as ‘Ád, and
suffered a like fate. They scouted the prophet Ṣáliḥ, refusing to
believe in him unless he should work a miracle. Ṣáliḥ then caused a
she-camel big with young to come forth from a rock, and bade them do her
no hurt, but one of the miscreants, Qudár the Red (al-Aḥmar), hamstrung
and killed her. "Whereupon a great earthquake overtook them with a noise
of thunder, and in the morning they lay dead in their houses, flat upon
their breasts."[23] The author of this catastrophe became a byword:
Arabs say, "More unlucky than the hamstringer of the she-camel," or
"than Aḥmar of Thamúd." It should be pointed out that, unlike the
‘Ádites, of whom we find no trace in historical times, the Thamúdites
are mentioned as still existing by Diodorus Siculus and Ptolemy; and
they survived down to the fifth century A.D. in the corps of _equites
Thamudeni_ attached to the army of the Byzantine emperors.

[Sidenote: ‘Amálíq.]

[Sidenote: Ṭasm and Jadís.]

Besides ‘Ád and Thamúd, the list of primitive races includes the ‘Amálíq
(Amalekites)--a purely fictitious term under which the Moslem
antiquaries lumped together several peoples of an age long past,_e.g._,
the Canaanites and the Philistines. We hear of Amalekite settlements in
the Tiháma (Netherland) of Mecca and in other parts of the peninsula.
Finally, mention should be made of Ṭasm and Jadís, sister tribes of
which nothing is recorded except the fact of their destruction and the
events that brought it about. The legendary narrative in which these are
embodied has some archæological interest as showing the existence in
early Arabian society of a barbarous feudal custom, 'le droit du
seigneur,' but it is time to pass on to the main subject of this

[Sidenote: History of the Yoqṭánids.]

The Pre-islamic history of the Yoqṭánids, or Southern Arabs, on which we
now enter, is virtually the history of two peoples, the Sabæans and the
Ḥimyarites, who formed the successive heads of a South Arabian empire
extending from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf.

[Sidenote: The Sabæans.]

Saba[24] (Sheba of the Old Testament) is often incorrectly used to
denote the whole of Arabia Felix, whereas it was only one, though
doubtless the first in power and importance, of several kingdoms, the
names and capitals of which are set down in the works of Greek and Roman
geographers. However exaggerated may be the glowing accounts that we
find there of Sabæan wealth and magnificence, it is certain that Saba
was a flourishing commercial state many centuries before the birth of
Christ.[25] "Sea-traffic between the ports of East Arabia and India was
very early established, and Indian products, especially spices and rare
animals (apes and peacocks) were conveyed to the coast of ‘Umán. Thence,
apparently even in the tenth century B.C., they went overland to the
Arabian Gulf, where they were shipped to Egypt for the use of the
Pharaohs and grandees.... The difficulty of navigating the Red Sea
caused the land route to be preferred for the traffic between Yemen and
Syria. From Shabwat (Sabota) in Ḥaḍramawt the caravan road went to
Ma’rib (Mariaba), the Sabæan capital, then northward to Macoraba (the
later Mecca), and by way of Petra to Gaza on the Mediterranean."[26] The
prosperity of the Sabæans lasted until the Indian trade, instead of
going overland, began to go by sea along the coast of Ḥaḍramawt and
through the straits of Báb al-Mandab. In consequence of this change,
which seems to have taken place in the first century A.D., their power
gradually declined, a great part of the population was forced to seek
new homes in the north, their cities became desolate, and their massive
aqueducts crumbled to pieces. We shall see presently that Arabian legend
has crystallised the results of a long period of decay into a single
fact--the bursting of the Dyke of Ma’rib.

[Sidenote: The Ḥimyarites.]

The disappearance of the Sabæans left the way open for a younger branch
of the same stock, namely, the Ḥimyarites, or, as they are called by
classical authors, Homeritæ, whose country lay between Saba and the sea.
Under their kings, known as Tubba‘s, they soon became the dominant power
in South Arabia and exercised sway, at least ostensibly, over the
northern tribes down to the end of the fifth century A.D., when the
latter revolted and, led by Kulayb b. Rabí‘a, shook off the suzerainty
of Yemen in a great battle at Khazázá.[27] The Ḥimyarites never
flourished like the Sabæans. Their maritime situation exposed them more
to attack, while the depopulation of the country had seriously weakened
their military strength. The Abyssinians--originally colonists from
Yemen--made repeated attempts to gain a foothold, and frequently managed
to instal governors who were in turn expelled by native princes. Of
these Abyssinian viceroys the most famous is Abraha, whose unfortunate
expedition against Mecca will be related in due course. Ultimately the
Ḥimyarite Empire was reduced to a Persian dependency. It had ceased to
exist as a political power about a hundred years before the rise of

[Sidenote: Sources of information.]

The chief Arabian sources of information concerning Saba and Ḥimyar are
(1) the so-called 'Ḥimyarite' inscriptions, and (2) the traditions,
almost entirely of a legendary kind, which are preserved in Muḥammadan

[Sidenote: The South Arabic or Sabæan inscriptions.]

[Sidenote: Objections to the term 'Ḥimyarite.']

Although the South Arabic language may have maintained itself
sporadically in certain remote districts down to the Prophet's time or
even later, it had long ago been superseded as a medium of daily
intercourse by the language of the North, the Arabic _par excellence_,
which henceforth reigns without a rival throughout the peninsula. The
dead language, however, did not wholly perish. Already in the sixth
century A.D. the Bedouin rider made his camel kneel down while he
stopped to gaze wonderingly at inscriptions in a strange character
engraved on walls of rock or fragments of hewn stone, and compared the
mysterious, half-obliterated markings to the almost unrecognisable
traces of the camping-ground which for him was fraught with tender
memories. These inscriptions are often mentioned by Muḥammadan authors,
who included them in the term _Musnad_. That some Moslems--probably very
few--could not only read the South Arabic alphabet, but were also
acquainted with the elementary rules of orthography, appears from a
passage in the eighth book of Hamdání's _Iklíl_; but though they might
decipher proper names and make out the sense of words here and there,
they had no real knowledge of the language. How the inscriptions were
discovered anew by the enterprise of European travellers, gradually
deciphered and interpreted until they became capable of serving as a
basis for historical research, and what results the study of them has
produced, this I shall now set forth as briefly as possible. Before
doing so it is necessary to explain why instead of 'Ḥimyarite
inscriptions' and 'Ḥimyarite language' I have adopted the less familiar
designations 'South Arabic' or 'Sabæan.' 'Ḥimyarite' is equally
misleading, whether applied to the language of the inscriptions or to
the inscriptions themselves. As regards the language, it was spoken in
one form or another not by the Ḥimyarites alone, but also by the
Sabæans, the Minæans, and all the different peoples of Yemen.
Muḥammadans gave the name of 'Ḥimyarite' to the ancient language of
Yemen for the simple reason that the Ḥimyarites were the most powerful
race in that country during the last centuries preceding Islam. Had all
the inscriptions belonged to the period of Ḥimyarite supremacy, they
might with some justice have been named after the ruling people; but the
fact is that many date from a far earlier age, some going back to the
eighth century B.C., perhaps nearly a thousand years before the
Ḥimyarite Empire was established. The term 'Sabæan' is less open to
objection, for it may fairly be regarded as a national rather than a
political denomination. On the whole, however, I prefer 'South Arabic'
to either.

[Sidenote: Discovery and decipherment of the South Arabic inscriptions.]

Among the pioneers of exploration in Yemen the first to interest himself
in the discovery of inscriptions was Carsten Niebuhr, whose
_Beschreibung von Arabien_, published in 1772, conveyed to Europe the
report that inscriptions which, though he had not seen them, he
conjectured to be 'Ḥimyarite,' existed in the ruins of the once famous
city of Ẓafár. On one occasion a Dutchman who had turned Muḥammadan
showed him the copy of an inscription in a completely unknown alphabet,
but "at that time (he says) being very ill with a violent fever, I had
more reason to prepare myself for death than to collect old
inscriptions."[28] Thus the opportunity was lost, but curiosity had been
awakened, and in 1810 Ulrich Jasper Seetzen discovered and copied
several inscriptions in the neighbourhood of Ẓafár. Unfortunately these
copies, which had to be made hastily, were very inexact. He also
purchased an inscription, which he took away with him and copied at
leisure, but his ignorance of the characters led him to mistake the
depressions in the stone for letters, so that the conclusions he came to
were naturally of no value.[29] The first serviceable copies of South
Arabic inscriptions were brought to Europe by English officers employed
on the survey of the southern and western coasts of Arabia. Lieutenant
J. R. Wellsted published the inscriptions of Ḥiṣn Ghuráb and Naqb
al-Ḥajar in his _Travels in Arabia_ (1838).

Meanwhile Emil Rödiger, Professor of Oriental Languages at Halle, with
the help of two manuscripts of the Berlin Royal Library containing
'Ḥimyarite' alphabets, took the first step towards a correct
decipherment by refuting the idea, for which De Sacy's authority had
gained general acceptance, that the South Arabic script ran from left to
right[30]; he showed, moreover, that the end of every word was marked by
a straight perpendicular line.[31] Wellsted's inscriptions, together
with those which Hulton and Cruttenden brought to light at Ṣan‘á, were
deciphered by Gesenius and Rödiger working independently (1841).
Hitherto England and Germany had shared the credit of discovery, but a
few years later France joined hands with them and was soon leading the
way with characteristic brilliance. In 1843 Th. Arnaud, starting from
Ṣan‘á, succeeded in discovering the ruins of Ma’rib, the ancient Sabæan
metropolis, and in copying at the risk of his life between fifty and
sixty inscriptions, which were afterwards published in the _Journal
Asiatique_ and found an able interpreter in Osiander.[32] Still more
important were the results of the expedition undertaken in 1870 by the
Jewish scholar, Joseph Halévy, who penetrated into the Jawf, or country
lying east of Ṣan‘á, which no European had traversed before him since 24
B.C., when Ælius Gallus led a Roman army by the same route. After
enduring great fatigues and meeting with many perilous adventures,
Halévy brought back copies of nearly seven hundred inscriptions.[33]
During the last twenty-five years much fresh material has been collected
by E. Glaser and Julius Euting, while study of that already existing by
Prætorius, Halévy, D. H. Müller, Mordtmann, and other scholars has
substantially enlarged our knowledge of the language, history, and
religion of South Arabia in the Pre-islamic age.

[Sidenote: The historical value of the inscriptions.]

Neither the names of the Ḥimyarite monarchs, as they appear in the lists
drawn up by Muḥammadan historians, nor the order in which these names
are arranged can pretend to accuracy. If they are historical persons at
all they must have reigned in fairly recent times, perhaps a short while
before the rise of Islam, and probably they were unimportant princes
whom the legend has thrown back into the ancient epoch, and has invested
with heroic attributes. Any one who doubts this has only to compare the
modern lists with those which have been made from the material in the
inscriptions.[34] D. H. Müller has collected the names of thirty-three
Minæan kings. Certain names are often repeated--a proof of the existence
of ruling dynasties--and ornamental epithets are usually attached to
them. Thus we find Dhamar‘alí Dhirríḥ (Glorious), Yatha‘amar Bayyin
(Distinguished), Kariba’íl Watár Yuhan‘im (Great, Beneficent), Samah‘alí
Yanúf (Exalted). Moreover, the kings bear different titles corresponding
to three distinct periods of South Arabian history, viz., 'Priest-king
of Saba' (_Mukarrib Saba_),[35] 'King of Saba' (_Malk Saba_), and 'King
of Saba and Raydán.' In this way it is possible to determine
approximately the age of the various buildings and inscriptions, and to
show that they do not belong, as had hitherto been generally supposed,
to the time of Christ, but that in some cases they are at least eight
hundred years older.

[Sidenote: Votive inscriptions.]

How widely the peaceful, commerce-loving people of Saba and Ḥimyar
differed in character from the wild Arabs to whom Muḥammad was sent
appears most strikingly in their submissive attitude towards their gods,
which forms, as Goldziher has remarked, the keynote of the South Arabian
monuments.[36] The prince erects a thank-offering to the gods who gave
him victory over his enemies; the priest dedicates his children and all
his possessions; the warrior who has been blessed with "due
man-slayings," or booty, or escape from death records his gratitude, and
piously hopes for a continuance of favour. The dead are conceived as
living happily under divine protection; they are venerated and sometimes
deified.[37] The following inscription, translated by Lieut.-Col. W. F.
Prideaux, is a typical example of its class:--

 "Sa‘d-iláh and his sons, Benú Marthadim, have endowed Il-Maḳah of
  Hirrán with this tablet, because Il-Maḳah, lord of Awwám Dhú-‘Irán
  Alú, has favourably heard the prayer addressed to him, and has
  consequently heard the Benú Marthadim when they offered the
  first-fruits of their fertile lands of Arhaḳim in the presence of
  Il-Maḳah of Hirrán, and Il-Maḳah of Hirrán has favourably heard the
  prayer addressed to him that he would protect the plains and meadows
  and this tribe in their habitations, in consideration of the frequent
  gifts throughout the year; and truly his (Sa‘d-iláh's) sons will
  descend to Arhaḳim, and they will indeed sacrifice in the two shrines
  of ‘Athtor and Shamsim, and there shall be a sacrifice in Hirrán--both
  in order that Il-Maḳah may afford protection to those fields of Bin
  Marthadim as well as that he may favourably listen--and in the
  sanctuary of Il-Maḳah of Ḥarwat, and therefore may he keep them in
  safety according to the sign in which Sa‘d-iláh was instructed, the
  sign which he saw in the sanctuary of Il-Maḳah of Na‘mán; and as for
  Il-Maḳah of Hirrán, he has protected those fertile lands of Arhaḳim
  from hail and from all misfortune (_or_, from cold and from all
  extreme heat)."[38]

In concluding this very inadequate account of the South Arabic
inscriptions I must claim the indulgence of my readers, who are aware
how difficult it is to write clearly and accurately upon any subject
without first-hand knowledge, in particular when the results of previous
research are continually being transformed by new workers in the same

[Sidenote: Literary sources.]

[Sidenote: Hamdání († 945 A.D.).]

Fortunately we possess a considerable literary supplement to these
somewhat austere and meagre remains. Our knowledge of South Arabian
geography, antiquities, and legendary history is largely derived from
the works of two natives of Yemen, who were filled with enthusiasm for
its ancient glories, and whose writings, though different as fact and
fable, are from the present point of view equally instructive--Ḥasan b.
Aḥmad al-Hamdání and Nashwán b. Sa‘íd al-Ḥimyarí. Besides an excellent
geography of Arabia (_Ṣifatu Jazírat al-‘Arab_), which has been edited
by D. H. Müller, Hamdání left a great work on the history and
antiquities of Yemen, entitled _al-Iklíl_ ('The Crown'), and divided
into ten books under the following heads:--[39]

  Book I. _Compendium of the beginning and origins of genealogy._

  Book II. _Genealogy of the descendants of al-Hamaysa‘ b. Ḥimyar._

  Book III. _Concerning the pre-eminent qualities of Qaḥṭán._

  Book IV. _Concerning the first period of history down to the reign
              of Tubba‘ Abú Karib._

  Book V. _Concerning the middle period from the accession of As‘ad
             Tubba‘ to the reign of Dhú Nuwás._

  Book VI. _Concerning the last period down to the rise of Islam._

  Book VII. _Criticism of false traditions and absurd legends._

  Book VIII. _Concerning the castles, cities, and tombs of the
                Ḥimyarites; the extant poetry of ‘Alqama,_[40]
               _the elegies, the inscriptions, and other matters._

  Book IX. _Concerning the proverbs and wisdom of the Ḥimyarites in
              the Ḥimyarite language, and concerning the alphabet
              of the inscriptions._

  Book X. _Concerning the genealogy of Ḥáshid and Bakíl_ (the two
             principal tribes of Hamdán).

[Sidenote: Nashwán b. Sa‘íd al-Ḥimyarí († 1177 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: ‘Abíd b. Sharya.]

[Sidenote: Ḥamza of Iṣfahán.]

The same intense patriotism which caused Hamdání to devote himself to
scientific research inspired Nashwán b. Sa‘íd, who descended on the
father's side from one of the ancient princely families of Yemen, to
recall the legendary past and become the laureate of a long vanished and
well-nigh forgotten empire. In 'The Ḥimyarite Ode' (_al-Qaṣìdatu
’l-Ḥimyariyya_) he sings the might and grandeur of the monarchs who
ruled over his people, and moralises in true Muḥammadan spirit upon the
fleetingness of life and the futility of human ambition.[41]
Accompanying the Ode, which has little value except as a comparatively
unfalsified record of royal names,[42] is a copious historical
commentary either by Nashwán himself, as Von Kremer thinks highly
probable, or by some one who lived about the same time. Those for whom
history represents an aggregate of naked facts would find nothing to the
purpose in this commentary, where threads of truth are almost
inextricably interwoven with fantastic and fabulous embroideries. A
literary form was first given to such legends by the professional
story-tellers of early Islam. One of these, the South Arabian ‘Abíd b.
Sharya, visited Damascus by command of the Caliph Mu‘áwiya I, who
questioned him "concerning the ancient traditions, the kings of the
Arabs and other races, the cause of the confusion of tongues, and the
history of the dispersion of mankind in the various countries of the
world,"[43] and gave orders that his answers should be put together in
writing and published under his name. This work, of which unfortunately
no copy has come down to us, was entitled 'The Book of the Kings and the
History of the Ancients' (_Kitábu ’l-Mulúk wa-akhbáru ’l-Máḍín_).
Mas‘údí († 956 A.D.) speaks of it as a well-known book, enjoying a wide
circulation.[44] It was used by the commentator of the Ḥimyarite Ode,
either at first hand or through the medium of Hamdání's _Iklíl_. We may
regard it, like the commentary itself, as a historical romance in which
most of the characters and some of the events are real, adorned with
fairy-tales, fictitious verses, and such entertaining matter as a man of
learning and story-teller by trade might naturally be expected to
introduce. Among the few remaining Muḥammadan authors who bestowed
special attention on the Pre-islamic period of South Arabian history, I
shall mention here only Ḥamza of Iṣfahán, the eighth book of whose
Annals (finished in 961 A.D.) provides a useful sketch, with brief
chronological details, of the Tubba‘s or Ḥimyarite kings of Yemen.

[Sidenote: Ya‘rub.]

[Sidenote: Ḥimyar and Kahlán.]

Qaḥṭán, the ancestor of the Southern Arabs, was succeeded by his son
Ya‘rub, who is said to have been the first to use the Arabic language,
and the first to receive the salutations with which the Arabs were
accustomed to address their kings, viz., "_In‘im ṣabáḥan_" ("Good
morning!") and "_Abayta ’l-la‘na_" ("Mayst thou avoid malediction!").
His grandson, ‘Abd Shams Saba, is named as the founder of Ma’rib and the
builder of the famous Dyke, which, according to others, was constructed
by Luqmán b. ‘Ád. Saba had two sons, Ḥimyar and Kahlán. Before his death
he deputed the sovereign authority to Ḥimyar, and the task of protecting
the frontiers and making war upon the enemy to Kahlán. Thus Ḥimyar
obtained the lordship, assumed the title Abú Ayman, and abode in the
capital city of the realm, while Kahlán took over the defence of the
borders and the conduct of war.[45] Omitting the long series of mythical
Sabæan kings, of whom the legend has little or nothing to relate, we now
come to an event which fixed itself ineffaceably in the memory of the
Arabs, and which is known in their traditions as _Saylu ’l-‘Arim_, or
the Flood of the Dyke.

[Sidenote: The Dam of Ma’rib.]

Some few miles south-west of Ma’rib the mountains draw together leaving
a gap, through which flows the River Adana. During the summer its bed is
often dry, but in the rainy season the water rushes down with such
violence that it becomes impassable. In order to protect the city from
floods, and partly also for purposes of irrigation, the inhabitants
built a dam of solid masonry, which, long after it had fallen into ruin,
struck the imagination of Muḥammad, and was reckoned by Moslems among
the wonders of the world.[46] That their historians have clothed the
bare fact of its destruction in ample robes of legendary circumstance is
not surprising, but renders abridgment necessary.[47]

[Sidenote: Its destruction announced by portents.]

Towards the end of the third century of our era, or possibly at an
earlier epoch,[48] the throne of Ma’rib was temporarily occupied by ‘Amr
b. ‘Ámir Má’ al-Samá, surnamed Muzayqiyá.[49] His wife, Ẓarífa, was
skilled in the art of divination. She dreamed dreams and saw visions
which announced the impending calamity. "Go to the Dyke," she said to
her husband, who doubted her clairvoyance, "and if thou see a rat
digging holes in the Dyke with its paws and moving huge boulders with
its hind-legs, be assured that the woe hath come upon us." So ‘Amr went
to the Dyke and looked carefully, and lo, there was a rat moving an
enormous rock which fifty men could not have rolled from its place.
Convinced by this and other prodigies that the Dyke would soon burst and
the land be laid waste, he resolved to sell his possessions and depart
with his family; and, lest conduct so extraordinary should arouse
suspicion, he had recourse to the following stratagem. He invited the
chief men of the city to a splendid feast, which, in accordance with a
preconcerted plan, was interrupted by a violent altercation between
himself and his son (or, as others relate, an orphan who had been
brought up in his house). Blows were exchanged, and ‘Amr cried out, "O
shame! on the day of my glory a stripling has insulted me and struck my
face." He swore that he would put his son to death, but the guests
entreated him to show mercy, until at last he gave way. "But by God," he
exclaimed, "I will no longer remain in a city where I have suffered this
indignity. I will sell my lands and my stock." Having successfully got
rid of his encumbrances--for there was no lack of buyers eager to take
him at his word--‘Amr informed the people of the danger with which they
were threatened, and set out from Ma’rib at the head of a great
multitude. Gradually the waters made a breach in the Dyke and swept over
the country, spreading devastation far and wide. Hence the proverb
_Dhahabú_ (or _tafarraqú_) _aydí Saba_, "They departed" (or "dispersed")
"like the people of Saba."[50]

[Sidenote: Fall of the Sabæan Empire.]

This deluge marks an epoch in the history of South Arabia. The waters
subside, the land returns to cultivation and prosperity, but Ma’rib lies
desolate, and the Sabæans have disappeared for ever, except "to point a
moral or adorn a tale." Al-A‘shá sang:--

                          ⌣|    ⌣|    ⌣|
  Metre _Mutaqárib_: (⌣ - -|⌣ - -|⌣ - -|⌣ -).

 "Let this warn whoever a warning will take--
  And Ma’rib withal, which the Dam fortified.
  Of marble did Ḥimyar construct it, so high,
  The waters recoiled when to reach it they tried.
  It watered their acres and vineyards, and hour
  By hour, did a portion among them divide.
  So lived they in fortune and plenty until
  Therefrom turned away by a ravaging tide.
  Then wandered their princes and noblemen through
  Mirage-shrouded deserts that baffle the guide."[51]

The poet's reference to Ḥimyar is not historically accurate. It was only
after the destruction of the Dyke and the dispersion of the Sabæans who
built it[52] that the Ḥimyarites, with their capital Ẓafár (at a later
period, Ṣan‘á) became the rulers of Yemen.

[Sidenote: The Tubba‘s.]

The first Tubba‘, by which name the Ḥimyarite kings are known to
Muḥammadan writers, was Ḥárith, called al-Rá’ish, _i.e._, the Featherer,
because he 'feathered' his people's nest with the booty which he brought
home as a conqueror from India and Ádharbayján.[53] Of the Tubba‘s who
come after him some obviously owe their place in the line of Ḥimyar to
genealogists whose respect for the Koran was greater than their critical
acumen. Such a man of straw is Ṣa‘b Dhu ’l-Qarnayn (Ṣa‘b the

[Sidenote: Dhu ’l-Qarnayn.]

The following verses show that he is a double of the mysterious Dhu
’l-Qarnayn of Koranic legend, supposed by most commentators to be
identical with Alexander the Great[54]:--

 "Ours the realm of Dhu ’l-Qarnayn the glorious,
  Realm like his was never won by mortal king.
  Followed he the Sun to view its setting
  When it sank into the sombre ocean-spring;
  Up he clomb to see it rise at morning,
  From within its mansion when the East it fired;
  All day long the horizons led him onward,[55]
  All night through he watched the stars and never tired.
  Then of iron and of liquid metal
  He prepared a rampart not to be o'erpassed,
  Gog and Magog there he threw in prison
  Till on Judgment Day they shall awake at last."[56]

[Sidenote: Bilqís.]

Similarly, among the Tubba‘s we find the Queen of Sheba, whose
adventures with Solomon are related in the twenty-seventh chapter of the
Koran. Although Muḥammad himself did not mention her name or lineage,
his interpreters were equal to the occasion and revealed her as Bilqís,
the daughter of Sharáḥíl (Sharaḥbíl).

[Sidenote: As‘ad Kámil.]

The national hero of South Arabian legend is the Tubba‘ As‘ad Kámil, or,
as he is sometimes called, Abú Karib. Even at the present day, says Von
Kremer, his memory is kept alive, and still haunts the ruins of his
palace at Ẓafár. "No one who reads the Ballad of his Adventures or the
words of exhortation which he addressed on his deathbed to his son
Ḥassán can escape from the conviction that here we have to do with
genuine folk-poetry--fragments of a South Arabian legendary cycle, the
beginnings of which undoubtedly reach back to a high antiquity."[57] I
translate here the former of these pieces, which may be entitled


  "Time brings to pass full many a wonder
   Whereof the lesson thou must ponder.
   Whilst all to thee seems ordered fair,
   Lo, Fate hath wrought confusion there.
   Against a thing foredoomed to be
   Nor cunning nor caution helpeth thee.
   Now a marvellous tale will I recite;
   Trust me to know and tell it aright!

   Once on a time was a boy of Asd
   Who became the king of the land at last,
   Born in Hamdán, a villager;
   The name of that village was Khamir.
   This lad in the pride of youth defied
   His friends, and they with scorn replied.
   None guessed his worth till he was grown
   Ready to spring.

                      One morn, alone
   On Hinwam hill he was sore afraid.[59]
   (His people knew not where he strayed;
   They had seen him only yesternight,
   For his youth and wildness they held him light.
   The wretches! Him they never missed
   Who had been their glory had they wist).

   O the fear that fell on his heart when he
   Saw beside him the witches three!
   The eldest came with many a brew--
   In some was blood, blood-dark their hue.
  'Give me the cup!' he shouted bold;
  'Hold, hold!' cried she, but he would not hold.
   She gave him the cup, nor he did shrink
   Tho' he reeled as he drained the magic drink.

   Then the second yelled at him. Her he faced
   Like a lion with anger in his breast.
  'These be our steeds, come mount,' she cried,
  'For asses are worst of steeds to ride.'
 ''Tis sooth,' he answered, and slipped his flank
   O'er a hyena lean and lank,
   But the brute so fiercely flung him away,
   With deep, deep wounds on the earth he lay.
   Then came the youngest and tended him
   On a soft bed, while her eyes did swim
   In tears; but he averted his face
   And sought a rougher resting-place:
   Such paramour he deemed too base.
   And him thought, in anguish lying there,
   That needles underneath him were.[60]

   Now when they had marked his mien so bold,
   Victory in all things they foretold.
   'The wars, O As‘ad, waged by thee
   Shall heal mankind of misery.
   Thy sword and spear the foe shall rue
   When his gashes let the daylight through;
   And blood shall flow on every hand
   What time thou marchest from land to land.
   By us be counselled: stay not within
   Khamir, but go to Ẓafár and win!
   To thee shall dalliance ne'er be dear,
   Thy foes shall see thee before they hear.
   Desire moved to encounter thee,
   Noble prince, us witches three.
   Not jest, but earnest on thee we tried,
   And well didst thou the proof abide.'

   As‘ad went home and told his folk
   What he had seen, but no heed they took.
   On the tenth day he set out again
   And fared to Ẓafár with thoughts in his brain.
   There fortune raised him to high renown:
   None swifter to strike ever wore a crown.[61]

          *       *       *       *       *

   Thus found we the tale in memory stored,
   And Almighty is the Lord.
   Praise be to God who liveth aye,
   The Glorious to whom all men pray!"

Legend makes As‘ad the hero of a brilliant expedition to Persia, where
he defeated the general sent against him by the Arsacids, and penetrated
to the Caspian Sea. On his way home he marched through the Ḥijáz, and
having learned that his son, whom he left behind in Medína, had been
treacherously murdered, he resolved to take a terrible vengeance on the
people of that city.

  [Sidenote: As‘ad Kámil and the two Rabbins of Medína.]

  [Sidenote: As‘ad Kámil at Mecca.]

  [Sidenote: He seeks to establish Judaism in Yemen.]

  [Sidenote: The ordeal of fire.]

 "Now while the Tubba‘ was carrying on war against them, there came to
  him two Jewish Rabbins of the Banú Qurayẓa, men deep in knowledge, who
  when they heard that he wished to destroy the city and its people,
  said to him: 'O King, forbear! Verily, if thou wilt accept nothing
  save that which thou desirest, an intervention will be made betwixt
  thee and the city, and we are not sure but that sudden chastisement
  may befall thee.' 'Why so?' he asked. They answered: ''Tis the place
  of refuge of a prophet who in the after time shall go forth from the
  sacred territory of Quraysh: it shall be his abode and his home.' So
  the king refrained himself, for he saw that those two had a particular
  knowledge, and he was pleased with what they told him. On departing
  from Medína he followed them in their religion.[62]... And he turned
  his face towards Mecca, that being his way to Yemen, and when he was
  between ‘Usfán and Amaj some Hudhalites came to him and said: 'O King,
  shall we not guide thee to a house of ancient treasure which the kings
  before thee neglected, wherein are pearls and emeralds and chrysolites
  and gold and silver?' He said, 'Yea.' They said: 'It is a temple at
  Mecca which those who belong to it worship and in which they pray.'
  Now the Hudhalites wished to destroy him thereby, knowing that
  destruction awaited the king who should seek to violate its precinct.
  So on comprehending what they proposed, he sent to the two Rabbins to
  ask them about the affair. They replied: 'These folk intend naught but
  to destroy thee and thine army; we wot not of any house in the world
  that God hath chosen for Himself, save this. If thou do that to which
  they invite thee, thou and those with thee will surely perish
  together.' He said: 'What then is it ye bid me do when I come there?'
  They said: 'Thou wilt do as its people do--make the circuit thereof,
  and magnify and honour it, and shave thy head, and humble thyself
  before it, until thou go forth from its precinct.' He said: 'And what
  hinders you from doing that yourselves?' 'By God,' said they, 'it is
  the temple of our father Abraham, and verily it is even as we told
  thee, but we are debarred therefrom by the idols which its people have
  set up around it and by the blood-offerings which they make beside it;
  for they are vile polytheists,' or words to the same effect. The king
  perceived that their advice was good and their tale true. He ordered
  the Hudhalites to approach, and cut off their hands and feet. Then he
  continued his march to Mecca, where he made the circuit of the temple,
  sacrificed camels, and shaved his head. According to what is told, he
  stayed six days at Mecca, feasting the inhabitants with the flesh of
  camels and letting them drink honey.[63]... Then he moved out with his
  troops in the direction of Yemen, the two Rabbins accompanying him;
  and on entering Yemen he called on his subjects to adopt the religion
  which he himself had embraced, but they refused unless the question
  were submitted to the ordeal of fire which at that time existed in
  Yemen; for as the Yemenites say, there was in their country a fire
  that gave judgment between them in their disputes: it devoured the
  wrong-doer but left the injured person unscathed. The Yemenites
  therefore came forward with their idols and whatever else they used as
  a means of drawing nigh unto God, and the two Rabbins came forward
  with their scriptures hung on their necks like necklaces, and both
  parties seated themselves at the place from which the fire was wont to
  issue. And the fire blazed up, and the Yemenites shrank back from it
  as it approached them, and were afraid, but the bystanders urged them
  on and bade them take courage. So they held out until the fire
  enveloped them and consumed the idols and images and the men of
  Ḥimyar, the bearers thereof; but the Rabbins came forth safe and
  sound, their brows moist with sweat, and the scriptures were still
  hanging on their necks. Thereupon the Ḥimyarites consented to adopt
  the king's religion, and this was the cause of Judaism being
  established in Yemen."[64]

[Sidenote: As‘ad's farewell to his son.]

The poem addressed to his son and successor, Ḥassán, which tradition has
put into his mouth, is a sort of last will and testament, of which the
greater part is taken up with an account of his conquests and with
glorification of his family and himself.[65] Nearly all that we find in
the way of maxims or injunctions suitable to the solemn occasion is
contained in the following verses:--

 "O Ḥassán, the hour of thy father's death has arrived at last:
  Look to thyself ere yet the time for looking is past.
  Oft indeed are the mighty abased, and often likewise
  Are the base exalted: such is Man who is born and dies.
  Bid ye Ḥimyar know that standing erect would I buried be,
  And have my wine-skins and Yemen robes in the tomb with me.[66]
  And hearken thou to my Sibyl, for surely can she foresay
  The truth, and safe in her keeping is castle Ghaymán aye.[67]

[Sidenote: The castles of Yemen.]

[Sidenote: Ghumdán.]

In connection with Ghaymán a few words may be added respecting the
castles in Yemen, of which the ruined skeletons rising from solitary
heights seem still to frown defiance upon the passing traveller. Two
thousand years ago, and probably long before, they were occupied by
powerful barons, more or less independent, who in later times, when the
Ḥimyarite Empire had begun to decline, always elected, and occasionally
deposed, their royal master. Of these castles the geographer Hamdání has
given a detailed account in the eighth book of his great work on the
history and antiquities of Yemen entitled the _Iklíl_, or 'Crown.'[68]
The oldest and most celebrated was Ghumdán, the citadel of Ṣan‘á. It is
described as a huge edifice of twenty stories, each story ten cubits
high. The four façades were built with stone of different colours,
white, black, green, and red. On the top story was a chamber which had
windows of marble framed with ebony and planewood. Its roof was a slab
of pellucid marble, so that when the lord of Ghumdán lay on his couch he
saw the birds fly overhead, and could distinguish a raven from a kite.
At each corner stood a brazen lion, and when the wind blew it entered
the hollow interior of the effigies and made a sound like the roaring of

[Sidenote: Zarqá’u ’l-Yamáma.]

The adventure of As‘ad Kámil with the three witches must have recalled
to every reader certain scenes in _Macbeth_. Curiously enough, in the
history of his son Ḥassán an incident is related which offers a striking
parallel to the march of Birnam Wood. Ṭasm and Jadís have already been
mentioned. On the massacre of the former tribe by the latter, a single
Ṭasmite named Ribáḥ b. Murra made his escape and took refuge with the
Tubba‘ Ḥassán, whom he persuaded to lead an expedition against the
murderers. Now Ribáḥ's sister had married a man of Jadís. Her name was
Zarqá’u ’l-Yamáma--_i.e._, the Blue-eyed Woman of Yamáma--and she had
such piercing sight that she was able to descry an army thirty miles
away. Ḥassán therefore bade his horsemen hold in front of them leafy
branches which they tore down from the trees. They advanced thus hidden,
and towards evening, when they had come within a day's journey, Zarqá
said to her people: "I see trees marching." No one believed her until it
was too late. Next morning Ḥassán fell upon them and put the whole tribe
to the sword.

[Sidenote: Ḥassán murdered by his brother.]

[Sidenote: Dhú Ru‘ayn.]

The warlike expeditions to which Ḥassán devoted all his energy were felt
as an intolerable burden by the chiefs of Ḥimyar, who formed a plot to
slay him and set his brother ‘Amr on the throne. ‘Amr was at first
unwilling to lend himself to their designs, but ultimately his scruples
were overcome, and he stabbed the Tubba‘ with his own hand. The assassin
suffered a terrible punishment. Sleep deserted him, and in his remorse
he began to execute the conspirators one after another. There was,
however, a single chief called Dhú Ru‘ayn, who had remained loyal and
had done his best to save ‘Amr from the guilt of fratricide. Finding his
efforts fruitless, he requested ‘Amr to take charge of a sealed paper
which he brought with him, and to keep it in a safe place until he
should ask for it. ‘Amr consented and thought no more of the matter.
Afterwards, imagining that Dhú Ru‘ayn had joined in the fatal plot, he
gave orders for his execution. "How!" exclaimed Dhú Ru‘ayn, "did not I
tell thee what the crime involved?" and he asked for the sealed writing,
which was found to contain these verses--

 "O fool to barter sleep for waking! Blest
  Is he alone whose eyelids close in rest.
  Hath Ḥimyar practised treason, yet 'tis plain
  That God forgiveness owes to Dhú Ru‘ayn.[69]"

On reading this, ‘Amr recognised that Dhú Ru‘ayn had spoken the truth,
and he spared his life.

[Sidenote: Dhú Nuwás.]

[Sidenote: Massacre of the Christians in Najrán (523 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Death of Dhú Nuwás.]

With ‘Amr the Tubba‘ dynasty comes to an end. The succeeding kings were
elected by eight of the most powerful barons, who in reality were
independent princes, each ruling in his strong castle over as many
vassals and retainers as he could bring into subjection. During this
period the Abyssinians conquered at least some part of the country, and
Christian viceroys were sent by the Najáshí (Negus) to govern it in his
name. At last Dhú Nuwás, a descendant of the Tubba‘ As‘ad Kámil, crushed
the rebellious barons and made himself unquestioned monarch of Yemen. A
fanatical adherent of Judaism, he resolved to stamp out Christianity in
Najrán, where it is said to have been introduced from Syria by a holy
man called Faymiyún (Phemion). The Ḥimyarites flocked to his standard,
not so much from religious motives as from hatred of the Abyssinians.
The pretended murder of two Jewish children gave Dhú Nuwás a plausible
_casus belli_. He marched against Najrán with an overwhelming force,
entered the city, and bade the inhabitants choose between Judaism and
death. Many perished by the sword; the rest were thrown into a trench
which the king ordered to be dug and filled with blazing fire. Nearly a
hundred years later, when Muḥammad was being sorely persecuted, he
consoled and encouraged his followers by the example of the Christians
of Najrán, who suffered "_for no other reason but that they believed in
the mighty, the glorious God_."[70] Dhú Nuwás paid dearly for his
triumph. Daws Dhú Tha‘labán, one of those who escaped from the massacre,
fled to the Byzantine emperor and implored him, as the head of
Christendom, to assist them in obtaining vengeance. Justinus accordingly
wrote a letter to the Najáshí, desiring him to take action, and ere long
an Abyssinian army, 70,000 strong, under the command of Aryáṭ,
disembarked in Yemen. Dhú Nuwás could not count on the loyalty of the
Ḥimyarite nobles; his troops melted away. "When he saw the fate that had
befallen himself and his people, he turned to the sea and setting spurs
to his horse, rode through the shallows until he reached the deep water.
Then he plunged into the waves and nothing more of him was seen."[71]

Thus died, or thus at any rate should have died, the last representative
of the long line of Ḥimyarite kings. Henceforth Yemen appears in
Pre-islamic history only as an Abyssinian dependency or as a Persian
protectorate. The events now to be related form the prologue to a new
drama in which South Arabia, so far from being the centre of interest,
plays an almost insignificant rôle.[72]

  [Sidenote: Yemen under Abyssinian rule.]

  [Sidenote: Abraha and Aryáṭ.]

  [Sidenote: Abraha viceroy of Yemen.]

  On the death of Dhú Nuwás, the Abyssinian general Aryáṭ continued
  his march through Yemen. He slaughtered a third part of the males,
  laid waste a third part of the land, and sent a third part of the
  women and children to the Najáshí as slaves. Having reduced the
  Yemenites to submission and re-established order, he held the
  position of viceroy for several years. Then mutiny broke out in the
  Abyssinian army of occupation, and his authority was disputed by an
  officer, named Abraha. When the rivals faced each other, Abraha said
  to Aryáṭ: "What will it avail you to engage the Abyssinians in a
  civil war that will leave none of them alive? Fight it out with me,
  and let the troops follow the victor." His challenge being accepted,
  Abraha stepped forth. He was a short, fleshy man, compactly built, a
  devout Christian, while Aryáṭ was big, tall, and handsome. When
  the duel began, Aryáṭ thrust his spear with the intention of
  piercing Abraha's brain, but it glanced off his forehead, slitting
  his eyelid, nose, and lip--hence the name, _al-Ashram_, by which
  Abraha was afterwards known; and ere he could repeat the blow, a
  youth in Abraha's service, called ‘Atwada, who was seated on a
  hillock behind his master, sprang forward and dealt him a mortal
  wound. Thus Abraha found himself commander-in-chief of the
  Abyssinian army, but the Najáshí was enraged and swore not to rest
  until he set foot on the soil of Yemen and cut off the rebel's
  forelock. On hearing this, Abraha wrote to the Najáshí: "O King,
  Aryáṭ was thy servant even as I am. We quarrelled over thy
  command, both of us owing allegiance to thee, but I had more
  strength than he to command the Abyssinians and keep discipline and
  exert authority. When I heard of the king's oath, I shore my head,
  and now I send him a sack of the earth of Yemen that he may put it
  under his feet and fulfil his oath." The Najáshí answered this act
  of submission by appointing Abraha to be his viceroy.... Then Abraha
  built the church (_al-Qalís_) at San‘á, the like of which was not to
  be seen at that time in the whole world, and wrote to the Najáshí
  that he would not be content until he had diverted thither every
  pilgrim in Arabia. This letter made much talk, and a man of the Banú
  Fuqaym, one of those who arranged the calendar, was angered by what
  he learned of Abraha's purpose; so he went into the church and
  defiled it. When Abraha heard that the author of the outrage
  belonged to the people of the Temple in Mecca, and that he meant to
  show thereby his scorn and contempt for the new foundation, he waxed
  wroth and swore that he would march against the Temple and lay it in

[Sidenote: Sayf b. Dhí Yazan.]

[Sidenote: The Persians in Yemen (_circa_ 572 A.D.).]

The disastrous failure of this expedition, which took place in the year
of the Elephant (570 A.D.), did not at once free Yemen from the
Abyssinian yoke. The sons of Abraha, Yaksum and Masrúq, bore heavily on
the Arabs. Seeing no help among his own people, a noble Ḥimyarite named
Sayf b. Dhí Yazan resolved to seek foreign intervention. His choice lay
between the Byzantine and Persian empires, and he first betook himself
to Constantinople. Disappointed there, he induced the Arab king of Ḥíra,
who was under Persian suzerainty, to present him at the court of Madá’in
(Ctesiphon). How he won audience of the Sásánian monarch, Núshírwán,
surnamed the Just, and tempted him by an ingenious trick to raise a
force of eight hundred condemned felons, who were set free and shipped
to Yemen under the command of an aged general; how they literally
'burned their boats' and, drawing courage from despair, routed the
Abyssinian host and made Yemen a satrapy of Persia[73]--this forms an
almost epic narrative, which I have omitted here (apart from
considerations of space) because it belongs to Persian rather than to
Arabian literary history, being probably based, as Nöldeke has
suggested, on traditions handed down by the Persian conquerors who
settled in Yemen to their aristocratic descendants whom the Arabs called
_al-Abná_ (the Sons) or _Banu ’l-Aḥrár_ (Sons of the Noble).

Leaving the once mighty kingdom of Yemen thus pitiably and for ever
fallen from its high estate, we turn northward into the main stream of
Arabian history.



[Sidenote: The Age of Barbarism (al-Jáhiliyya).]

Muḥammadans include the whole period of Arabian history from the
earliest times down to the establishment of Islam in the term
_al-Jáhiliyya_, which was used by Muḥammad in four passages of the Koran
and is generally translated 'the state or ignorance' or simply 'the
Ignorance.' Goldziher, however, has shown conclusively that the meaning
attached to _jahl_ (whence _Jáhiliyya_ is derived) by the Pre-islamic
poets is not so much 'ignorance' as 'wildness,' 'savagery,' and that its
true antithesis is not _‘ilm_ (knowledge), but rather _ḥilm_, which
denotes the moral reasonableness of a civilised man. "When Muḥammadans
say that Islam put an end to the manners and customs of the _Jáhiliyya_,
they have in view those barbarous practices, that savage temper, by
which Arabian heathendom is distinguished from Islam and by the
abolition of which Muḥammad sought to work a moral reformation in his
countrymen: the haughty spirit of the _Jáhiliyya_ (_ḥamiyyatu
’l-Jáhiliyya_), the tribal pride and the endless tribal feuds, the cult
of revenge, the implacability and all the other pagan characteristics
which Islam was destined to overcome."[74]

Our sources of information regarding this period may be classified as

[Sidenote: Sources of information concerning the Jáhiliyya.]

(1) _Poems and fragments of verse_, which though not written down at the
time were preserved by oral tradition and committed to writing, for the
most part, two or three hundred years afterwards. The importance of
this, virtually the sole contemporary record of Pre-islamic history, is
recognised in the well-known saying, "Poetry is the public register of
the Arabs (_al-shi‘ru díwánu ’l-‘Arab_); thereby genealogies are kept in
mind and famous actions are made familiar." Some account of the chief
collections of old Arabian poetry will be given in the next chapter.

(2) _Proverbs._ These are of less value, as they seldom explain
themselves, while the commentary attached to them is the work of
scholars bent on explaining them at all costs, though in many cases
their true meaning could only be conjectured and the circumstances of
their origin had been entirely forgotten. Notwithstanding this very
pardonable excess of zeal, we could ill afford to lose the celebrated
collections of Mufaḍḍal b. Salama († _circa_ 900 A.D.) and Maydání (†
1124 A.D.),[75] which contain so much curious information throwing light
on every aspect of Pre-islamic life.

[Sidenote: _The Book of Songs._]

(3) _Traditions and legends._ Since the art of writing was neither
understood nor practised by the heathen Arabs in general, it was
impossible that Prose, as a literary form, should exist among them. The
germs of Arabic Prose, however, may be traced back to the _Jáhiliyya_.
Besides the proverb (_mathal_) and the oration (_khuṭba_) we find
elements of history and romance in the prose narratives used by the
rhapsodists to introduce and set forth plainly the matter of their
songs, and in the legends which recounted the glorious deeds of tribes
and individuals. A vast number of such stories--some unmistakably
genuine, others bearing the stamp of fiction--are preserved in various
literary, historical, and geographical works composed under the ‘Abbásid
Caliphate, especially in the _Kitábu ’l-Aghání_ (Book of Songs) by Abu
’l-Faraj of Iṣfahán († 967 A.D.), an invaluable compilation based on the
researches of the great Humanists as they have been well named by Sir
Charles Lyall, of the second and third centuries after the Hijra.[76]
The original writings of these early critics and scholars have perished
almost without exception, and beyond the copious citations in the
_Aghání_ we possess hardly any specimens of their work. "The _Book of
Songs_," says Ibn Khaldún, "is the Register of the Arabs. It comprises
all that they had achieved in the past of excellence in every kind of
poetry, history, music, _et cetera_. So far as I am aware, no other book
can be put on a level with it in this respect. It is the final resource
of the student of belles-lettres, and leaves him nothing further to

[Sidenote: Scope of this chapter.]

In the following pages I shall not attempt to set in due order and
connection the confused mass of poetry and legend in which all that we
know of Pre-islamic Arabia lies deeply embedded. This task has already
been performed with admirable skill by Caussin de Perceval in his _Essai
sur l'histoire des Arabes avant l'Islamisme_,[78] and it could serve no
useful purpose to inflict a dry summary of that famous work upon the
reader. The better course, I think, will be to select a few typical and
outstanding features of the time and to present them, wherever possible,
as they have been drawn--largely from imagination--by the Arabs
themselves. If the Arabian traditions are wanting in historical accuracy
they are nevertheless, taken as a whole, true in spirit to the Dark Age
which they call up from the dead and reverently unfold beneath our eyes.

[Sidenote: The Arab dynasties of Ḥíra and Ghassán.]

[Sidenote: Odenathus and Zenobia.]

About the middle of the third century of our era Arabia was enclosed on
the north and north-east by the rival empires of Rome and Persia, to
which the Syrian desert, stretching right across the peninsula, formed a
natural termination. In order to protect themselves from Bedouin
raiders, who poured over the frontier-provinces, and after laying hands
on all the booty within reach vanished as suddenly as they came, both
Powers found it necessary to plant a line of garrisons along the edge of
the wilderness. Thus the tribesmen were partially held in check, but as
force alone seemed an expensive and inefficient remedy it was decided,
in accordance with the well-proved maxim, _divide et impera_, to enlist
a number of the offending tribes in the Imperial service. Regular pay
and the prospect of unlimited plunder--for in those days Rome and Persia
were almost perpetually at war--were inducements that no true Bedouin
could resist. They fought, however, as free allies under their own
chiefs or phylarchs. In this way two Arabian dynasties sprang up--the
Ghassánids in Syria and the Lakhmites at Ḥíra, west of the
Euphrates--military buffer-states, always ready to collide even when
they were not urged on by the suzerain powers behind them. The Arabs
soon showed what they were capable of when trained and disciplined in
arms. On the defeat of Valerian by the Chosroes Sábúr I, an Arab
chieftain in Palmyra, named Udhayna (Odenathus), marched at the head of
a strong force against the conqueror, drove him out of Syria, and
pursued him up to the very walls of Madá’in, the Persian capital (265
A.D.). His brilliant exploits were duly rewarded by the Emperor
Gallienus, who bestowed on him the title of Augustus. He was, in fact,
the acknowledged master of the Roman legions in the East when, a year
later, he was treacherously murdered. He found a worthy successor in his
wife, the noble and ambitious Zenobia, who set herself the task of
building up a great Oriental Empire. She fared, however, no better than
did Cleopatra in a like enterprise. For a moment the issue was doubtful,
but Aurelian triumphed and the proud 'Queen of the East' was led a
captive before his chariot through the streets of Rome (274 A.D.).

These events were not forgotten by the Arabs. It flattered their
national pride to recall that once, at any rate, Roman armies had
marched under the flag of an Arabian princess. But the legend, as told
in their traditions, has little in common with reality. Not only are
names and places freely altered--Zenobia herself being confused with her
Syrian general, Zabdai--but the historical setting, though dimly visible
in the background, has been distorted almost beyond recognition: what
remains is one of those romantic adventures which delighted the Arabs of
the _Jáhiliyya_, just as their modern descendants are never tired of
listening to the _Story of ‘Antar_ or to the _Thousand Nights and a

[Sidenote: Málik the Azdite.]

[Sidenote: Jadhíma al-Abrash.]

The first king of the Arab settlers in ‘Iráq (Babylonia)[79] is said to
have been Málik the Azdite, who was accidentally shot with an arrow by
his son, Sulayma. Before he expired he uttered a verse which has become

 _U‘allimuhu ’l-rimáyata kulla yawmin
  falamma ’stadda sá‘iduhú ramání._

 "I taught him every day the bowman's art,
  And when his arm took aim, he pierced my heart."

Málik's kingdom, if it can properly be described as such, was
consolidated and organised by his son, Jadhíma, surnamed al-Abrash (the
Speckled)--a polite euphemism for al-Abraṣ (the Leprous). He reigned as
the vassal of Ardashír Bábakán, the founder (226 A.D.) of the Sásánian
dynasty in Persia, which thereafter continued to dominate the Arabs of
‘Iráq during the whole Pre-islamic period. Jadhíma is the hero of many
fables and proverbs. His pride, it is said, was so overweening that he
would suffer no boon-companions except two stars called _al-Farqadán_,
and when he drank wine he used to pour out a cup for each of them. He
had a page, ‘Adí b. Naṣr, with whom his sister fell in love; and in a
moment of intoxication he gave his consent to their marriage. Next
morning, furious at the trick which had been played upon him, he
beheaded the unlucky bridegroom and reviled his sister for having
married a slave. Nevertheless, when a son was born, Jadhíma adopted the
boy, and as he grew up regarded him with the utmost affection. One day
the youthful ‘Amr suddenly disappeared. For a long time no trace of him
could be found, but at last he was discovered, running wild and naked,
by two brothers, Málik and ‘Aqíl, who cared for him and clothed him and
presented him to the king. Overjoyed at the sight, Jadhíma promised to
grant them whatever they asked. They chose the honour, which no mortal
had hitherto obtained, of being his boon-companions, and by this title
(_nadmáná Jadhíma_) they are known to fame.

[Sidenote: The story of Zabbá.]

Jadhíma was a wise and warlike prince. In one of his expeditions he
defeated and slew ‘Amr b. Ẓarib b. Ḥassán b. Udhayna, an Arab chieftain
who had brought part of Eastern Syria and Mesopotamia under his sway,
and who, as the name Udhayna indicates, is probably identical with
Odenathus, the husband of Zenobia. This opinion is confirmed by the
statement of Ibn Qutayba that "Jadhíma sought in marriage Zabbá, the
daughter of the King of Mesopotamia, who became queen after her
_husband_."[80]--According to the view generally held by Muḥammadan
authors Zabbá[81] was the daughter of ‘Amr b. Ẓarib and was elected to
succeed him when he fell in battle. However this may be, she proved
herself a woman of extraordinary courage and resolution. As a safeguard
against attack she built two strong castles on either bank of the
Euphrates and connected them by a subterranean tunnel; she made one
fortress her own residence, while her sister, Zaynab, occupied the

  Having thus secured her position she determined to take vengeance on
  Jadhíma. She wrote to him that the sceptre was slipping from her
  feeble grasp, that she found no man worthy of her except himself,
  that she desired to unite her kingdom with his by marriage, and
  begged him to come and see her. Jadhíma needed no urging. Deaf to
  the warnings of his friend and counsellor, Qaṣír, he started from
  Baqqa, a castle on the Euphrates. When they had travelled some
  distance, Qaṣír implored him to return. "No," said Jadhíma, "the
  affair was decided at Baqqa"--words which passed into a proverb. On
  approaching their destination the king saw with alarm squadrons of
  cavalry between him and the city, and said to Qaṣír, "What is the
  prudent course?" "You left prudence at Baqqa," he replied; "if the
  cavalry advance and salute you as king and then retire in front of
  you, the woman is sincere, but if they cover your flanks and
  encompass you, they mean treachery. Mount al-‘Aṣá"--Jadhíma's
  favourite mare--"for she cannot be overtaken or outpaced, and rejoin
  your troops while there is yet time." Jadhíma refused to follow this
  advice. Presently he was surrounded by the cavalry and captured.
  Qaṣír, however, sprang on the mare's back and galloped thirty miles
  without drawing rein.

  When Jadhíma was brought to Zabbá she seated him on a skin of
  leather and ordered her maidens to open the veins in his arm, so
  that his blood should flow into a golden bowl. "O Jadhíma," said
  she, "let not a single drop be lost. I want it as a cure for
  madness." The dying man suddenly moved his arm and sprinkled with
  his blood one of the marble pillars of the hall--an evil portent for
  Zabbá, inasmuch as it had been prophesied by a certain soothsayer
  that unless every drop of the king's blood entered the bowl, his
  murder would be avenged.

  Now Qaṣír came to ‘Amr b. ‘Adí, Jadhíma's nephew and son by
  adoption, who has been mentioned above, and engaged to win over the
  army to his side if he would take vengeance on Zabbá. "But how?"
  cried ‘Amr; "for she is more inaccessible than the eagle of the
  air." "Only help me," said Qaṣír, "and you will be clear of
  blame." He cut off his nose and ears and betook himself to Zabbá,
  pretending that he had been mutilated by ‘Amr. The queen believed
  what she saw, welcomed him, and gave him money to trade on her
  behalf. Qaṣír hastened to the palace of ‘Amr at Ḥíra, and,
  having obtained permission to ransack the royal treasury, he
  returned laden with riches. Thus he gradually crept into the
  confidence of Zabbá, until one day he said to her: "It behoves every
  king and queen to provide themselves with a secret passage wherein
  to take refuge in case of danger." Zabbá answered: "I have already
  done so," and showed him the tunnel which she had constructed
  underneath the Euphrates. His project was now ripe for execution.
  With the help of ‘Amr he fitted out a caravan of a thousand camels,
  each carrying two armed men concealed in sacks. When they drew near
  the city of Zabbá, Qaṣír left them and rode forward to announce
  their arrival to the queen, who from the walls of her capital viewed
  the long train of heavily burdened camels and marvelled at the slow
  pace with which they advanced. As the last camel passed through the
  gates of the city the janitor pricked one of the sacks with an
  ox-goad which he had with him, and hearing a cry of pain, exclaimed,
  "By God, there's mischief in the sacks!" But it was too late. ‘Amr
  and his men threw themselves upon the garrison and put them to the
  sword. Zabbá sought to escape by the tunnel, but Qaṣír stood
  barring the exit on the further side of the stream. She hurried
  back, and there was ‘Amr facing her. Resolved that her enemy should
  not taste the sweetness of vengeance, she sucked her seal-ring,
  which contained a deadly poison, crying, "By my own hand, not by

In the kingdoms of Ḥíra and Ghassán Pre-islamic culture attained its
highest development, and from these centres it diffused itself and made
its influence felt throughout Arabia. Some account, therefore, of their
history and of the circumstances which enabled them to assume a
civilising rôle will not be superfluous.[83]

[Sidenote: The foundation of Ḥíra.]

About the beginning of the third century after Christ a number of
Bedouin tribes, wholly or partly of Yemenite origin, who had formed a
confederacy and called themselves collectively Tanúkh, took advantage of
the disorder then prevailing in the Arsacid Empire to invade ‘Iráq
(Babylonia) and plant their settlements in the fertile country west of
the Euphrates. While part of the intruders continued to lead a nomad
life, others engaged in agriculture, and in course of time villages and
towns grew up. The most important of these was Ḥíra (properly,
al-Ḥíra, _i.e._, the Camp), which occupied a favourable and healthy
situation a few miles to the south of Kúfa, in the neighbourhood of
ancient Babylon.[84] According to Hishám b. Muḥammad al-Kalbí († 819
or 821 A.D.), an excellent authority for the history of the Pre-islamic
period, the inhabitants of Ḥíra during the reign of Ardashír Bábakán,
the first Sásánian king of Persia (226-241 A.D.), consisted of three
classes, viz.:--

(1) The _Tanúkh_, who dwelt west of the Euphrates between Ḥíra and
Anbár in tents of camel's hair.

(2) The _‘Ibád_, who lived in houses in Ḥíra.

(3) The _Aḥláf_ (Clients), who did not belong to either of the
above-mentioned classes, but attached themselves to the people of
Ḥíra and lived among them--blood-guilty fugitives pursued by the
vengeance of their own kin, or needy emigrants seeking to mend their

[Sidenote: The ‘Ibád.]

Naturally the townsmen proper formed by far the most influential element
in the population. Hishám, as we have seen, calls them 'the ‘Ibád.' His
use of this term, however, is not strictly accurate. The ‘Ibád are
exclusively the _Christian Arabs of Ḥíra_, and are so called in
virtue of their Christianity; the pagan Arabs, who at the time when
Ḥíra was founded and for long afterwards constituted the bulk of the
citizens, were never comprised in a designation which expresses the very
opposite of paganism. _‘Ibád_ means 'servants,' _i.e._, those who serve
God or Christ. It cannot be determined at what epoch the name was first
used to distinguish the religious community, composed of members of
different tribes, which was dominant in Ḥíra during the sixth
century. Dates are comparatively of little importance; what is really
remarkable is the existence in Pre-islamic times of an Arabian community
that was not based on blood-relationship or descent from a common
ancestor, but on a spiritual principle, namely, the profession of a
common faith. The religion and culture of the ‘Ibád were conveyed by
various channels to the inmost recesses of the peninsula, as will be
shown more fully in a subsequent chapter. They were the schoolmasters of
the heathen Arabs, who could seldom read or write, and who, it must be
owned, so far from desiring to receive instruction, rather gloried in
their ignorance of accomplishments which they regarded as servile.
Nevertheless, the best minds among the Bedouins were irresistibly
attracted to Ḥíra. Poets in those days found favour with princes. A
great number of Pre-islamic bards visited the Lakhmite court, while
some, like Nábigha and ‘Abíd b. al-Abraṣ, made it their permanent

[Sidenote: The Lakhmites.]

[Sidenote: Nu‘mán I. (_circa_ 400 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: The Castle of Khawarnaq.]

[Sidenote: Nu‘mán becomes an anchorite.]

It is unnecessary to enter into the vexed question as to the origin and
rise of the Lakhmite dynasty at Ḥíra. According to Hishám b.
Muḥammad al-Kalbi, who gives a list of twenty kings, covering a
period of 522 years and eight months, the first Lakhmite ruler was ‘Amr
b. ‘Adí b. Naṣr b. Rabí‘a b. Lakhm, the same who was adopted by
Jadhíma, and afterwards avenged his death on Queen Zabbá. Almost nothing
is known of his successors until we come to Nu‘mán I, surnamed al-A‘war
(the One-eyed), whose reign falls in the first quarter of the fifth
century. Nu‘mán is renowned in legend as the builder of Khawarnaq, a
famous castle near Ḥíra. It was built at the instance of the Sásánian
king, Yazdigird I, who desired a salubrious residence for his son,
Prince Bahrám Gór. On its completion, Nu‘mán ordered the architect, a
'Roman' (_i.e._, Byzantine subject) named Sinimmár, to be cast headlong
from the battlements, either on account of his boast that he could have
constructed a yet more wonderful edifice "which should turn round with
the sun," or for fear that he might reveal the position of a certain
stone, the removal of which would cause the whole building to collapse.
One spring day (so the story is told) Nu‘mán sat with his Vizier in
Khawarnaq, which overlooked the Fen-land (al-Najaf), with its
neighbouring gardens and plantations of palm-trees and canals, to the
west, and the Euphrates to the east. Charmed by the beauty of the
prospect, he exclaimed, "Hast thou ever seen the like of this?" "No,"
replied the Vizier, "if it would but last." "And what is lasting?" asked
Nu‘mán. "That which is with God in heaven." "How can one attain to it?"
"By renouncing the world and serving God, and striving after that which
He hath." Nu‘mán, it is said, immediately resolved to abandon his
kingdom; on the same night he clad himself in sackcloth, stole away
unperceived, and became a wandering devotee (_sá’iḥ_). This legend
seems to have grown out of the following verses by ‘Adí b. Zayd, the

 "Consider thou Khawarnaq's lord--and oft
  Of heavenly guidance cometh vision clear--
  Who once, rejoicing in his ample realm,
  Surveyed the broad Euphrates, and Sadír;[85]
  Then sudden terror struck his heart: he cried,
  'Shall Man, who deathward goes, find pleasure here?'
  They reigned, they prospered; yet, their glory past,
  In yonder tombs they lie this many a year.
  At last they were like unto withered leaves
  Whirled by the winds away in wild career."[86]

The opinion of most Arabian authors, that Nu‘mán embraced Christianity,
is probably unfounded, but there is reason to believe that he was well
disposed towards it, and that his Christian subjects--a Bishop of
Ḥíra is mentioned as early as 410 A.D.--enjoyed complete religious

[Sidenote: Mundhir I.]

[Sidenote: Mundhir III, b. Má’ al-samá.]

[Sidenote: Rise of Kinda.]

[Sidenote: Mazdak.]

[Sidenote: Mundhir expelled from Ḥíra by Ḥárith of Kinda.]

[Sidenote: Death of Mundhir III.]

[Sidenote: Mundhir's "Good Day and Evil Day."]

[Sidenote: Ḥanẓala and Sharík.]

Nu‘mán's place was filled by his son Mundhir, an able and energetic
prince. The power of the Lakhmites at this time may be inferred from the
fact that on the death of Yazdigird I Mundhir forcibly intervened in the
dispute as to the Persian succession and procured the election of Bahrám
Gór, whose claims had previously been rejected by the priesthood.[87] In
the war which broke out shortly afterwards between Persia and Rome,
Mundhir proved himself a loyal vassal, but was defeated by the Romans
with great loss (421 A.D.). Passing over several obscure reigns, we
arrive at the beginning of the sixth century, when another Mundhir, the
third and most illustrious of his name, ascended the throne. This is he
whom the Arabs called Mundhir b. Má’ al-samá.[88] He had a long and
brilliant reign, which, however, was temporarily clouded by an event
that cannot be understood without some reference to the general history
of the period. About 480 A.D. the powerful tribe of Kinda, whose princes
appear to have held much the same position under the Tubba‘s of Yemen as
the Lakhmites under the Persian monarchs, had extended their sway over
the greater part of Central and Northern Arabia. The moving spirit in
this conquest was Ḥujr, surnamed Akilu ’l-Murár, an ancestor of the
poet Imru’u ’l-Qays. On his death the Kindite confederacy was broken up,
but towards the year 500 it was re-established for a brief space by his
grandson, Ḥárith b. ‘Amr, and became a formidable rival to the
kingdoms of Ghassán and Ḥíra. Meanwhile, in Persia, the communistic
doctrines of Mazdak had obtained wide popularity among the lower
classes, and were finally adopted by King Kawádh himself.[89] Now, it is
certain that at some date between 505 and 529 Ḥárith b. ‘Amr, the
Kindite, invaded ‘Iráq, and drove Mundhir out of his kingdom; and it
seems not impossible that, as many historians assert, the latter's
downfall was due to his anti-Mazdakite opinions, which would naturally
excite the displeasure of his suzerain. At any rate, whatever the causes
may have been, Mundhir was temporarily supplanted by Ḥárith, and
although he was restored after a short interval, before the accession of
Anúshirwán, who, as Crown Prince, carried out a wholesale massacre of
the followers of Mazdak (528 A.D.), the humiliation which he had
suffered and cruelly avenged was not soon forgotten;[90] the life and
poems of Imru’u ’l-Qays bear witness to the hereditary hatred subsisting
between Lakhm and Kinda. Mundhir's operations against the Romans were
conducted with extraordinary vigour; he devastated Syria as far as
Antioch, and Justinian saw himself obliged to entrust the defence of
these provinces to the Ghassánid Ḥárith b. Jabala (Ḥárith
al-A‘raj), in whom Mundhir at last found more than his match. From this
time onward the kings of Ḥíra and Ghassán are continually raiding and
plundering each other's territory. In one of his expeditions Mundhir
captured a son of Ḥárith, and "immediately sacrificed him to
Aphrodite"--_i.e._, to the Arabian goddess al-‘Uzzá;[91]--but on taking
the field again in 554 he was surprised and slain by stratagem in a
battle which is known proverbially as 'The Day of Ḥalíma.'[92] On the
whole, the Lakhmites were a heathen and barbarous race, and these
epithets are richly deserved by Mundhir III. It is related in the
_Aghání_ that he had two boon-companions, Khálid b. al-Muḍallil and
‘Amr b. Mas‘úd, with whom he used to carouse; and once, being irritated
by words spoken in wine, he gave orders that they should be buried
alive. Next morning he did not recollect what had passed and inquired as
usual for his friends. On learning the truth he was filled with remorse.
He caused two obelisks to be erected over their graves, and two days in
every year he would come and sit beside these obelisks, which were
called _al-Ghariyyán_--_i.e._, the Blood-smeared. One day was the Day of
Good (_yawmu na‘imin_), and whoever first encountered him on that day
received a hundred black camels. The other day was the Day of Evil
(_yawmu bu’sin_), on which he would present the first-comer with the
head of a black polecat (_ẓaribán_), then sacrifice him and smear the
obelisks with his blood.[93] The poet ‘Abíd b. al-Abraṣ is said to
have fallen a victim to this horrible rite. It continued until the doom
fell upon a certain Ḥanẓala of Ṭayyi’, who was granted a year's
grace in order to regulate his affairs, on condition that he should find
a surety. He appealed to one of Mundhir's suite, Sharík b. ‘Amr, who
straightway rose and said to the king, "My hand for his and my blood for
his if he fail to return at the time appointed." When the day came
Ḥanẓala did not appear, and Mundhir was about to sacrifice Sharík,
whose mourning-woman had already begun to chant the dirge. Suddenly a
rider was seen approaching, wrapped in a shroud and perfumed for burial.
A mourning-woman accompanied him. It was Ḥanẓala. Mundhir
marvelled at their loyalty, dismissed them with marks of honour, and
abolished the custom which he had instituted.[94]

[Sidenote: ‘Amr B. Hind (554-569 A.D.).]

He was succeeded by his son ‘Amr, who is known to contemporary poets and
later historians as ‘Amr, son of Hind.[95] During his reign Ḥíra
became an important literary centre. Most of the famous poets then
living visited his court; we shall see in the next chapter what
relations he had with Ṭarafa, ‘Amr b. Kulthúm, and Ḥárith b.
Ḥilliza. He was a morose, passionate, and tyrannical man. The Arabs
stood in great awe of him, but vented their spite none the less. "At
Ḥíra," said Daháb al-‘Ijlí, "there are mosquitoes and fever and lions
and ‘Amr b. Hind, who acts unjustly and wrongfully."[96] He was slain by
the chief of Taghlib, ‘Amr b. Kulthúm, in vengeance for an insult
offered to his mother, Laylá.

[Sidenote: Nu‘mán Abú Qábús.]

[Sidenote: ‘Adí b. Zayd.]

It is sufficient to mention the names of Qábús and Mundhir IV, both of
whom were sons of Hind, and occupied the throne for short periods. We
now come to the last Lakhmite king of Ḥíra, and by far the most
celebrated in tradition, Nu‘mán III, son of Mundhir IV, with the _kunya_
(name of honour) Abú Qábús, who reigned from 580 to 602 or from 585 to
607. He was brought up and educated by a noble Christian family in
Ḥíra, the head of which was Zayd b. Ḥammád, father of the poet
‘Adí b. Zayd. ‘Adí is such an interesting figure, and his fortunes were
so closely and tragically linked with those of Nu‘mán, that some account
of his life and character will be acceptable. Both his father and
grandfather were men of unusual culture, who held high posts in the
civil administration under Mundhir III and his successors. Zayd,
moreover, through the good offices of a _dihqán_, or Persian landed
proprietor, Farrukh-máhán by name, obtained from Khusraw Anúshirwán an
important and confidential appointment--that of Postmaster--ordinarily
reserved for the sons of satraps.[97] When ‘Adí grew up, his father sent
him to be educated with the son of the _dihqán_. He learned to write and
speak Persian with complete facility and Arabic with the utmost
elegance; he versified, and his accomplishments included archery,
horsemanship, and polo. At the Persian court his personal beauty, wit,
and readiness in reply so impressed Anúshirwán that he took him into his
service as secretary and interpreter--Arabic had never before been
written in the Imperial Chancery--and accorded him all the privileges of
a favourite. He was entrusted with a mission to Constantinople, where he
was honourably received; and on his departure the Qayṣar,[98]
following an excellent custom, instructed the officials in charge of the
post-routes to provide horses and every convenience in order that the
ambassador might see for himself the extent and resources of the
Byzantine Empire. ‘Adí passed some time in Syria, especially at
Damascus, where his first poem is said to have appeared. On his father's
death, which happened about this time, he renounced the splendid
position at Ḥíra which he might have had for the asking, and gave
himself up to hunting and to all kinds of amusement and pleasure, only
visiting Madá’in (Ctesiphon) at intervals to perform his secretarial
duties. While staying at Ḥíra he fell in love with Nu‘mán's daughter
Hind, who was then eleven years old. The story as told in the _Book of
Songs_ is too curious to be entirely omitted, though want of space
prevents me from giving it in full.[99]

  [Sidenote: ‘Adí meets the Princess Hind in church.]

  [Sidenote: His marriage to Hind.]

  It is related that Hind, who was one of the fairest women of her
  time, went to church on Thursday of Holy Week, three days after Palm
  Sunday, to receive the sacrament. ‘Adí had entered the church for
  the same purpose. He espied her--she was a big, tall girl--while she
  was off her guard, and fixed his gaze upon her before she became
  aware of him. Her maidens, who had seen him approaching, said
  nothing to their mistress, because one of them called Máriya was
  enamoured of ‘Adí and knew no other way of making his acquaintance.
  When Hind saw him looking at herself, she was highly displeased and
  scolded her handmaidens and beat some of them. ‘Adí had fallen in
  love with her, but he kept the matter secret for a whole year. At
  the end of that time Máriya, thinking that Hind had forgotten what
  passed, described the church of Thómá (St. Thomas) and the nuns
  there and the girls who frequented it, and the beauty of the
  building and of the lamps, and said to her, "Ask thy mother's leave
  to go." As soon as leave was granted, Máriya conveyed the
  intelligence to ‘Adí, who immediately dressed himself in a
  magnificent gold-embroidered Persian tunic (_yalmaq_) and hastened
  to the rendezvous, accompanied by several young men of Ḥíra. When
  Máriya perceived him, she cried to Hind, "Look at this youth: by
  God, he is fairer than the lamps and all things else that thou
  seest." "Who is he?" she asked. "‘Adí, son of Zayd." "Do you think,"
  said Hind, "that he will recognise me if I come nearer?" Then she
  advanced and watched him as he conversed with his friends,
  outshining them all by the beauty of his person, the elegance of his
  language, and the splendour of his dress. "Speak to him," said
  Máriya to her young mistress, whose countenance betrayed her
  feelings. After exchanging a few words the lovers parted. Máriya
  went to ‘Adí and promised, if he would first gratify her wishes, to
  bring about his union with Hind. She lost no time in warning Nu‘mán
  that his daughter was desperately in love with ‘Adí and would either
  disgrace herself or die of grief unless he gave her to him. Nu‘mán,
  however, was too proud to make overtures to ‘Adí, who on his part
  feared to anger the prince by proposing an alliance. The ingenious
  Máriya found a way out of the difficulty. She suggested that ‘Adí
  should invite Nu‘mán and his suite to a banquet, and having well
  plied him with wine should ask for the hand of his daughter, which
  would not then be refused. So it came to pass. Nu‘mán gave his
  consent to the marriage, and after three days Hind was brought home
  to her husband.[100]

[Sidenote: ‘Adí secures the election of Nu‘mán as King of Ḥíra.]

[Sidenote: He is imprisoned and put to death by Nu‘mán.]

On the death of Mundhir IV ‘Adí warmly supported the claims of Nu‘mán,
who had formerly been his pupil and was now his father-in-law, to the
throne of Ḥíra. The ruse which he employed on this occasion was
completely successful, but it cost him his life.[101] The partisans of
Aswad b. Mundhir, one of the defeated candidates, resolved on vengeance.
Their intrigues awakened the suspicions of Nu‘mán against the
'King-maker.' ‘Adí was cast into prison, where he languished for a long
time and was finally murdered by Nu‘mán when the Chosroes (Parwéz, son
of Hurmuz) had already intervened to procure his release.[102]

[Sidenote: The vengeance of Zayd b. ‘Adí.]

[Sidenote: Death of Nu‘mán III.]

‘Adí left a son named Zayd, who, on the recommendation of Nu‘mán, was
appointed by Khusraw Parwéz to succeed his father as Secretary for
Arabian Affairs at the court of Ctesiphon. Apparently reconciled to
Nu‘mán, he was none the less bent on vengeance, and only waited for an
opportunity. The kings of Persia were connoisseurs in female beauty, and
when they desired to replenish their harems they used to circulate an
advertisement describing with extreme particularity the physical and
moral qualities which were to be sought after;[103] but hitherto they
had neglected Arabia, which, as they supposed, could not furnish any
woman possessed of these perfections. Zayd therefore approached the
Chosroes and said: "I know that Nu‘mán has in his family a number of
women answering to the description. Let me go to him, and send with me
one of thy guardsmen who understands Arabic." The Chosroes complied, and
Zayd set out for Ḥíra. On learning the object of his mission, Nu‘mán
exclaimed with indignation: "What! are not the gazelles of Persia
sufficient for your needs?" The comparison of a beautiful woman to a
gazelle is a commonplace in Arabian poetry, but the officer accompanying
Zayd was ill acquainted with Arabic, and asked the meaning of the word
(_‘ín_ or _mahá_) which Nu‘mán had employed. "Cows," said Zayd. When
Parwéz heard from his guardsman that Nu‘mán had said, "Do not the cows
of Persia content him?" he could scarcely suppress his rage. Soon
afterwards he sent for Nu‘mán, threw him into chains, and caused him to
be trampled to pieces by elephants.[104]

[Sidenote: Character of Nu‘mán III.]

Nu‘mán III appears in tradition as a tyrannical prince, devoted to wine,
women, and song. He was the patron of many celebrated poets, and
especially of Nábigha Dhubyání, who was driven from Ḥíra in
consequence of a false accusation. This episode, as well as another in
which the poet Munakhkhal was concerned, gives us a glimpse into the
private life of Nu‘mán. He had married his step-mother, Mutajarrida, a
great beauty in her time; but though he loved her passionately, she
bestowed her affections elsewhere. Nábigha was suspected on account of a
poem in which he described the charms of the queen with the utmost
minuteness, but Munakhkhal was the real culprit. The lovers were
surprised by Nu‘mán, and from that day Munakhkhal was never seen again.
Hence the proverb, "Until Munakhkhal shall return," or, as we might say,
"Until the coming of the Coqcigrues."

[Sidenote: Nu‘mán's conversion to Christianity.]

Although several of the kings of Ḥíra are said to have been
Christians, it is very doubtful whether any except Nu‘mán III deserved
even the name; the Lakhmites, unlike the majority of their subjects,
were thoroughly pagan. Nu‘mán's education would naturally predispose him
to Christianity, and his conversion may have been wrought, as the legend
asserts, by his mentor ‘Adí b. Zayd.

[Sidenote: The Ghassánids or Jafnites.]

According to Muḥammadan genealogists, the Ghassánids, both those
settled in Medína and those to whom the name is consecrated by popular
usage--the Ghassánids of Syria--are descended from ‘Amr b. ‘Ámir
al-Muzayqiyá, who, as was related in the last chapter, sold his
possessions in Yemen and quitted the country, taking with him a great
number of its inhabitants, shortly before the Bursting of the Dyke of
Ma’rib. His son Jafna is generally regarded as the founder of the
dynasty. Of their early history very few authentic facts have been
preserved. At first, we are told, they paid tribute to the Ḑajá‘ima,
a family of the stock of Salíḥ, who ruled the Syrian borderlands
under Roman protection. A struggle ensued, from which the Ghassánids
emerged victorious, and henceforth we find them established in these
regions as the representatives of Roman authority with the official
titles of Patricius and Phylarch, which they and the Arabs around them
rendered after the simple Oriental fashion by 'King' (_malik_).

  [Sidenote: Ibn Qutayba's account of the Ghassánids.]

  [Sidenote: Ḥárith the Lame.]

  [Sidenote: Jabala b. al-Ayham.]

  The first (says Ibn Qutayba) that reigned in Syria of the family of
  Jafna was Ḥárith b. ‘Amr Muḥarriq, who was so called because
  he burnt (_ḥarraqa_) the Arabs in their houses. He is Ḥárith
  the Elder (al-Akbar), and his name of honour (_kunya_) is Abú
  Shamir. After him reigned Ḥárith b. Abí Shamir, known as
  Ḥárith the Lame (_al-A‘raj_), whose mother was Máriya of the
  Ear-rings. He was the best of their kings, and the most fortunate,
  and the craftiest; and in his raids he went the farthest afield. He
  led an expedition against Khaybar[105] and carried off a number of
  prisoners, but set them free after his return to Syria. When Mundhir
  b. Má’ al-samá marched against him with an army 100,000 strong,
  Ḥárith sent a hundred men to meet him--among them the poet Labíd,
  who was then a youth--ostensibly to make peace. They surrounded
  Mundhir's tent and slew the king and his companions; then they took
  horse, and some escaped, while others were slain. The Ghassánid
  cavalry attacked the army of Mundhir and put them to flight.
  Ḥárith had a daughter named Ḥalíma, who perfumed the hundred
  champions on that day and clad them in shrouds of white linen and
  coats of mail. She is the heroine of the proverb, "The day of
  Ḥalíma is no secret."[106] Ḥárith was succeeded by his son,
  Ḥárith the Younger. Among his other sons were ‘Amr b. Ḥárith
  (called Abú Shamir the Younger), to whom Nábigha came on leaving
  Nu‘mán b. Mundhir; Mundhir b. Ḥárith; and al-Ayham b. Ḥárith.
  Jabala, the son of al-Ayham, was the last of the kings of Ghassán.
  He was twelve spans in height, and his feet brushed the ground when
  he rode on horseback. He reached the Islamic period and became a
  Moslem in the Caliphate of ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭáb, but afterwards
  he turned Christian and went to live in the Byzantine Empire. The
  occasion of his turning Christian was this: In passing through the
  bazaar of Damascus he let his horse tread upon one of the
  bystanders, who sprang up and struck Jabala a blow on the face. The
  Ghassánís seized the fellow and brought him before Abú ‘Ubayda b.
  al-Jarráḥ,[107] complaining that he had struck their master. Abú
  ‘Ubayda demanded proof. "What use wilt thou make of the proof?" said
  Jabala. He answered: "If he has struck thee, thou wilt strike him a
  blow in return." "And shall not he be slain?" "No." "Shall not his
  hand be cut off?" "No," said Abú ‘Ubayda; "God has ordained
  retaliation only--blow for blow." Then Jabala went forth and betook
  himself to Roman territory and became a Christian; and he stayed
  there all the rest of his life.[108]

[Sidenote: Ḥárith the Lame.]

The Arabian traditions respecting the dynasty of Ghassán are hopelessly
confused and supply hardly any material even for the rough historical
sketch which may be pieced together from the scattered notices in
Byzantine authors.[109] It would seem that the first unquestionable
Ghassánid prince was Ḥárith b. Jabala (Ἁρέθας τοῦ Γαβάλα), who
figures in Arabian chronicles as 'Ḥárith the Lame,' and who was
appointed by Justinian (about 529 A.D.) to balance, on the Roman side,
the active and enterprising King of Ḥíra, Mundhir b. Má’ al-samá.
During the greater part of his long reign (529-569 A.D.) he was engaged
in war with this dangerous rival, to whose defeat and death in the
decisive battle of Ḥalíma we have already referred. Like all his
line, Ḥárith was a Christian of the Monophysite Church, which he
defended with equal zeal and success at a time when its very existence
was at stake. The following story illustrates his formidable character.
Towards the end of his life he visited Constantinople to arrange with
the Imperial Government which of his sons should succeed him, and made a
powerful impression on the people of that city, especially on the
Emperor's nephew, Justinus. Many years afterwards, when Justinus had
fallen into dotage, the chamberlains would frighten him, when he began
to rave, with "Hush! Arethas will come and take you."[110]

[Sidenote: Mundhir b. Ḥárith.]

Ḥárith was succeeded by his son, Mundhir, who vanquished the new King
of Ḥíra, Qábús b. Hind, on Ascension Day, 570 A.D., in a battle which
is perhaps identical with that celebrated by the Arabs as the Battle of
‘Ayn Ubágh. The refusal of the Emperor Justinus to furnish him with
money may have prevented Mundhir from pursuing his advantage, and was
the beginning of open hostility between them, which culminated about
eleven years later in his being carried off to Constantinople and forced
to reside in Sicily.

From this time to the Persian conquest of Palestine (614 A.D.) anarchy
prevailed throughout the Ghassánid kingdom. The various tribes elected
their own princes, who sometimes, no doubt, were Jafnites; but the
dynasty had virtually broken up. Possibly it was restored by Heraclius
when he drove the Persians out of Syria (629 A.D.), as the Ghassánians
are repeatedly found fighting for Rome against the Moslems, and
according to the unanimous testimony of Arabian writers, the Jafnite
Jabala b. al-Ayham, who took an active part in the struggle, was the
last king of Ghassán. His accession may be placed about 635 A.D. The
poet Ḥassán b. Thábit, who as a native of Medína could claim kinship
with the Ghassánids, and visited their court in his youth, gives a
glowing description of its luxury and magnificence.

  [Sidenote: Ḥassán b. Thábit's picture of the Ghassánid court.]

  "I have seen ten singing-girls, five of them Greeks, singing Greek
  songs to the music of lutes, and five from Ḥíra who had been
  presented to King Jabala by Iyás b. Qabíṣa,[111] chanting
  Babylonian airs. Arab singers used to come from Mecca and elsewhere
  for his delight; and when he would drink wine he sat on a couch of
  myrtle and jasmine and all sorts of sweet-smelling flowers,
  surrounded by gold and silver vessels full of ambergris and musk.
  During winter aloes-wood was burned in his apartments, while in
  summer he cooled himself with snow. Both he and his courtiers wore
  light robes, arranged with more regard to comfort than
  ceremony,[112] in the hot weather, and white furs, called
  _fanak_,[113] or the like, in the cold season; and, by God, I was
  never in his company but he gave me the robe which he was wearing on
  that day, and many of his friends were thus honoured. He treated the
  rude with forbearance; he laughed without reserve and lavished his
  gifts before they were sought. He was handsome, and agreeable in
  conversation: I never knew him offend in speech or act."[114]

[Sidenote: Ghassánid civilisation.]

[Sidenote: Nábigha's encomium.]

Unlike the rival dynasty on the Euphrates, the Ghassánids had no fixed
residence. They ruled the country round Damascus and Palmyra, but these
places were never in their possession. The capital of their nomad
kingdom was the temporary camp (in Aramaic, _ḥértá_) which followed
them to and fro, but was generally to be found in the Gaulonitis
(al-Jawlán), south of Damascus. Thus under the quickening impulse of
Hellenistic culture the Ghassánids developed a civilisation far superior
to that of the Lakhmites, who, just because of their half-barbarian
character, were more closely in touch with the heathen Arabs, and
exercised a deeper influence upon them. Some aspects of this
civilisation have been indicated in the description of Jabala b.
al-Ayham's court, attributed to the poet Ḥassán. An earlier bard, the
famous Nábigha, having fallen out of favour with Nu‘mán III of Híra,
fled to Syria, where he composed a splendid eulogy of the Ghassánids in
honour of his patron, King ‘Amr, son of Ḥárith the Lame. After
celebrating their warlike prowess, which he has immortalised in the
oft-quoted verse--

 "One fault they have: their swords are blunt of edge
  Through constant beating on their foemen's mail,"

he concludes in a softer strain:

 "Theirs is a liberal nature that God gave
  To no men else; their virtues never fail.
  Their home the Holy Land: their faith upright:
  They hope to prosper if good deeds avail.
  Zoned in fair wise and delicately shod,
  They keep the Feast of Palms, when maidens pale,
  Whose scarlet silken robes on trestles hang,
  Greet them with odorous boughs and bid them hail.
  Long lapped in ease tho' bred to war, their limbs
  Green-shouldered vestments, white-sleeved, richly veil."[115]

[Sidenote: Character of Bedouin history.]

The Pre-islamic history of the Bedouins is mainly a record of wars, or
rather guerillas, in which a great deal of raiding and plundering was
accomplished, as a rule without serious bloodshed. There was no lack of
shouting; volleys of vaunts and satires were exchanged; camels and women
were carried off; many skirmishes took place but few pitched battles: it
was an Homeric kind of warfare that called forth individual exertion in
the highest degree, and gave ample opportunity for single-handed deeds
of heroism. "To write a true history of such Bedouin feuds is well-nigh
impossible. As comparatively trustworthy sources of information we have
only the poems and fragments of verse which have been preserved.
According to Suyúṭí, the Arabian traditionists used to demand from
any Bedouin who related an historical event the citation of some verses
in its support; and, in effect, all such stories that have come down to
us are crystallised round the poems. Unfortunately these crystals are
seldom pure. It appears only too often that the narratives have been
invented, with abundant fancy and with more or less skill, to suit the
contents of the verses."[116] But although what is traditionally related
concerning the Battle-days of the Arabs (_Ayyámu ’l-‘Arab_) is to a
large extent legendary, it describes with sufficient fidelity how tribal
hostilities generally arose and the way in which they were conducted.
The following account of the War of Basús--the most famous of those
waged in Pre-islamic times--will serve to illustrate this important
phase of Bedouin life.[117]

[Sidenote: War of Basús.]

Towards the end of the fifth century A.D. Kulayb, son of Rabí‘a, was
chieftain of the Banú Taghlib, a powerful tribe which divided with their
kinsmen, the Banú Bakr, a vast tract in north-eastern Arabia, extending
from the central highlands to the Syrian desert. His victory at the head
of a confederacy formed by these tribes and others over the Yemenite
Arabs made him the first man in the peninsula, and soon his pride became
no less proverbial than his power.[118] He was married to Ḥalíla,
daughter of Murra, of the Banú Bakr, and dwelt in a 'preserve'
(_ḥimá_), where he claimed the sole right of pasturage for himself
and the sons of Murra. His brother-in-law, Jassás, had an aunt named
Basús. While living under her nephew's protection she was joined by a
certain Sa‘d, a client of her own people, who brought with him a
she-camel called Sarábi.

[Sidenote: Kulayb b. Rabí‘a and Jassás b. Murra.]

[Sidenote: The wounding of Sa‘d's she-camel.]

Now it happened that Kulayb, seeing a lark's nest as he walked on his
land, said to the bird, which was screaming and fluttering distressfully
over her eggs, "Have no fear! I will protect thee." But a short time
afterwards he observed in that place the track of a strange camel and
found the eggs trodden to pieces. Next morning when he and Jassás
visited the pasture ground, Kulayb noticed the she-camel of Sa‘d among
his brother-in-law's herd, and conjecturing that she had destroyed the
eggs, cried out to Jassás, "Take heed thou! Take heed! I have pondered
something, and were I sure, I would have done it! May this she-camel
never come here again with this herd!" "By God," exclaimed Jassás, "but
she shall come!" and when Kulayb threatened to pierce her udder with an
arrow, Jassás retorted, "By the stones of Wá’il,[119] fix thine arrow in
her udder and I will fix my lance in thy backbone!" Then he drove his
camels forth from the _ḥimá_. Kulayb went home in a passion, and said
to his wife, who sought to discover what ailed him, "Knowest thou any
one who durst defend his client against me?" She answered, "No one
except my brother Jassás, if he has given his word." She did what she
could to prevent the quarrel going further, and for a time nothing worse
than taunts passed between them, until one day Kulayb went to look after
his camels which were being taken to water, and were followed by those
of Jassás. While the latter were waiting their turn to drink, Sa‘d's
she-camel broke loose and ran towards the water. Kulayb imagined that
Jassás had let her go deliberately, and resenting the supposed insult,
he seized his bow and shot her through the udder. The beast lay down,
moaning loudly, before the tent of Basús, who in vehement indignation at
the wrong suffered by her friend, Sa‘d, tore the veil from her head,
beating her face and crying, "O shame, shame!" Then, addressing Sa‘d,
but raising her voice so that Jassás might hear, she spoke these verses,
which are known as 'The Instigators' (_al-Muwaththibát_):--

[Sidenote: Verses spoken by Basús.]

 "_O Sa‘d, be not deceived! Protect thyself!
   This people for their clients have no care.
   Look to my herds, I charge thee, for I doubt
   Even my little daughters ill may fare.
   By thy life, had I been in Minqar's house,
   Thou would'st not have been wronged, my client, there!
   But now such folk I dwell among that when
   The wolf comes, 'tis my sheep he comes to tear!_"[120]

[Sidenote: Kulayb murdered by Jassás.]

Jassás was stung to the quick by the imputation, which no Arab can
endure, that injury and insult might be inflicted upon his guest-friend
with impunity. Some days afterwards, having ascertained that Kulayb had
gone out unarmed, he followed and slew him, and fled in haste to his own
people. Murra, when he heard the news, said to his son, "Thou alone must
answer for thy deed: thou shalt be put in chains that his kinsmen may
slay thee. By the stones of Wá’il, never will Bakr and Taghlib be joined
together in welfare after the death of Kulayb. Verily, an evil thing
hast thou brought upon thy people, O Jassás! Thou hast slain their chief
and severed their union and cast war into their midst." So he put Jassás
in chains and confined him in a tent; then he summoned the elders of the
families and asked them, "What do ye say concerning Jassás? Here he is,
a prisoner, until the avengers demand him and we deliver him unto them."
"No, by God," cried Sa‘d b. Málik b. Ḑubay‘a b. Qays, "we will not
give him up, but will fight for him to the last man!" With these words
he called for a camel to be sacrificed, and when its throat was cut they
swore to one another over the blood. Thereupon Murra said to Jassás:--

  [Sidenote: Verses of Murra, the father of Jassás.]

 "_If war thou hast wrought and brought on me,
   No laggard I with arms outworn.
   Whate'er befall, I make to flow
   The baneful cups of death at morn._

   _When spear-points clash, my wounded man
   Is forced to drag the spear he stained.
   Never I reck, if war must be,
   What Destiny hath preordained._

   _Donning war's harness, I will strive
   To fend from me the shame that sears.
   Already I thrill and my lust is roused
   For the shock of the horsemen against the spears!_"[121]

[Sidenote: Outbreak of war between Taghlib and Bakr.]

Thus began the War of Basús between Taghlib on the one side and the clan
of Shaybán, to which Murra belonged, on the other; for at first the
remaining divisions of Bakr held aloof from the struggle, considering
Shaybán to be clearly in the wrong. The latter were reduced to dire
straits, when an event occurred which caused the Bakrites to rise as one
man on behalf of their fellows. Ḥárith b.‘Ubád, a famous knight of
Bakr, had refused to take part in the contest, saying in words which
became proverbial, "I have neither camel nor she-camel in it," _i.e._,
"it is no affair of mine." One day his nephew, Bujayr, encountered
Kulayb's brother, Muhalhil, on whom the mantle of the murdered chief had
fallen; and Muhalhil, struck with admiration for the youth's comeliness,
asked him who he was. "Bujayr," said he, "the son of ‘Amr, the son of
‘Ubád." "And who is thy uncle on the mother's side?" "My mother is a
captive" (for he would not name an uncle of whom he had no honour). Then
Muhalhil slew him, crying, "Pay for Kulayb's shoe-latchet!" On hearing
this, Ḥárith sent a message to Muhalhil in which he declared that if
vengeance were satisfied by the death of Bujayr, he for his part would
gladly acquiesce. But Muhalhil replied, "I have taken satisfaction only
for Kulayb's shoe-latchet." Thereupon Ḥárith sprang up in wrath and

 "_God knows, I kindled not this fire, altho'
     I am burned in it to-day.
   A lord for a shoe-latchet is too dear:
     To horse! To horse! Away!_"[122]

And al-Find, of the Banú Bakr, said on this occasion:--

  [Sidenote: Verses by al-Find.]

 "_We spared the Banú Hind[123] and said, 'Our brothers they remain:
   It may be Time will make of us one people yet again.'_"
  _But when the wrong grew manifest, and naked Ill stood plain,
   And naught was left but ruthless hate, we paid them bane with bane!
   As lions marched we forth to war in wrath and high disdain:
   Our swords brought widowhood and tears and wailing in their train,
   Our spears dealt gashes wide whence blood like water spilled amain.
   No way but Force to weaken Force and mastery obtain;
  'Tis wooing contumely to meet wild actions with humane:
   By evil thou may'st win to peace when good is tried in vain._"[124]

[Sidenote: The Day of Shearing.]

The Banú Bakr now prepared for a decisive battle. As their enemy had the
advantage in numbers, they adopted a stratagem devised by Ḥárith.
"Fight them," said he, "with your women. Equip every woman with a small
waterskin and give her a club. Place the whole body of them behind
you--this will make you more resolved in battle--and wear some
distinguishing mark which they will recognise, so that when a woman
passes by one of your wounded she may know him by his mark and give him
water to drink, and raise him from the ground; but when she passes by
one of your foes she will smite him with her club and slay him." So the
Bakrites shaved their heads, devoting themselves to death, and made this
a mark of recognition between themselves and their women, and this day
was called the Day of Shearing. Now Jaḥdar b. Ḑubay‘a was an
ill-favoured, dwarfish man, with fair flowing love-locks, and he said,
"O my people, if ye shave my head ye will disfigure me, so leave my
locks for the first horseman of Taghlib that shall emerge from the
hill-pass on the morrow" (meaning "I will answer for him, if my locks
are spared"). On his request being granted, he exclaimed:--

  [Sidenote: The vow of Jaḥdar b. Ḑubay‘a.]

 "_To wife and daughter
     Henceforth I am dead:
   Dust for ointment
     On my hair is shed._

  _Let me close with the horsemen
     Who hither ride,
   Cut my locks from me
     If I stand aside!_

  _Well wots a mother
     If the son she bore
   And swaddled on her bosom
     And smelt him o'er,_

  _Whenever warriors
     In the mellay meet,
   Is a puny weakling
     Or a man complete!_"[125]

He kept his promise but in the course of the fight he fell, severely
wounded. When the women came to him, they saw his love-locks and
imagining that he was an enemy despatched him with their clubs.

[Sidenote: Women as combatants.]

The presence of women on the field and the active share they took in the
combat naturally provoked the bitterest feelings. If they were not
engaged in finishing the bloody work of the men, their tongues were busy
inciting them. We are told that a daughter of al-Find bared herself
recklessly and chanted:--

 "_War! War! War! War!
   It has blazed up and scorched us sore.
   The highlands are filled with its roar.
   Well done, the morning when your heads ye shore!_"[126]

The mothers were accompanied by their children, whose tender age did not
always protect them from an exasperated foe. It is related that a
horseman of the Banú Taghlib transfixed a young boy and lifted him up on
the point of his spear. He is said to have been urged to this act of
savagery by one al-Bazbáz, who was riding behind him on the crupper.
Their triumph was short; al-Find saw them, and with a single
spear-thrust pinned them to each other--an exploit which his own verses

On this day the Banú Bakr gained a great victory, and broke the power of
Taghlib. It was the last battle of note in the Forty Years' War, which
was carried on, by raiding and plundering, until the exhaustion of both
tribes and the influence of King Mundhir III of Ḥíra brought it to an

[Sidenote: The War of Dáḥis and Ghabrá.]

Not many years after the conclusion of peace between Bakr and Taghlib,
another war, hardly less famous in tradition than the War of Basús,
broke out in Central Arabia. The combatants were the tribes of ‘Abs and
Dhubyán, the principal stocks of the Banú Ghaṭafán, and the occasion
of their coming to blows is related as follows:--

  Qays, son of Zuhayr, was chieftain of ‘Abs. He had a horse called
  Dáḥis, renowned for its speed, which he matched against Ghabrá, a
  mare belonging to Ḥudhayfa b. Badr, the chief of Dhubyán. It was
  agreed that the course should be a hundred bow-shots in length, and
  that the victor should receive a hundred camels. When the race began
  Ghabrá took the lead, but as they left the firm ground and entered
  upon the sand, where the 'going' was heavy, Dáḥis gradually drew
  level and passed his antagonist. He was nearing the goal when some
  Dhubyánites sprang from an ambuscade prepared beforehand, and drove
  him out of his course, thus enabling Ghabrá to defeat him. On being
  informed of this foul play Qays naturally claimed that he had won
  the wager, but the men of Dhubyán refused to pay even a single
  camel. Bitterly resenting their treachery, he waylaid and slew one
  of Ḥudhayfa's brothers. Ḥudhayfa sought vengeance, and the
  murder of Málik, a brother of Qays, by his horsemen gave the signal
  for war. In the fighting which ensued Dhubyán more than held their
  own, but neither party could obtain a decisive advantage. Qays slew
  the brothers Ḥudhayfa and Ḥamal--

  "_Ḥamal I slew and eased my heart thereby,
    Ḥudhayfa glutted my avenging brand;
    But though I slaked my thirst by slaying them,
    I would as lief have lost my own right hand._"[127]

  After a long period--forty years according to the traditional
  computation--‘Abs and Dhubyán were reconciled by the exertions of
  two chieftains of the latter tribe, Ḥárith b. ‘Awf and Harim b.
  Sinán, whose generous and patriotic intervention the poet Zuhayr has
  celebrated. Qays went into exile. "I will not look," he said, "on
  the face of any woman of Dhubyán whose father or brother or husband
  or son I have killed." If we may believe the legend, he became a
  Christian monk and ended his days in ‘Umán.

[Sidenote: The Hijáz.]

Descending westward from the highlands of Najd the traveller gradually
approaches the Red Sea, which is separated from the mountains running
parallel to it by a narrow strip of coast-land, called the Tiháma
(Netherland). The rugged plateau between Najd and the coast forms the
Ḥijáz (Barrier), through which in ancient times the Sabæan caravans
laden with costly merchandise passed on their way to the Mediterranean
ports. Long before the beginning of our era two considerable trading
settlements had sprung up in this region, viz., Macoraba (Mecca) and,
some distance farther north, Yathrippa (Yathrib, the Pre-islamic name of
Medína). Of their early inhabitants and history we know nothing except
what is related by Muḥammadan writers, whose information reaches back
to the days of Adam and Abraham. Mecca was the cradle of Islam, and
Islam, according to Muḥammad, is the religion of Abraham, which was
corrupted by succeeding generations until he himself was sent to purify
it and to preach it anew. Consequently the Pre-islamic history of Mecca
has all been, so to speak, 'Islamised.' The Holy City of Islam is made
to appear in the same light thousands of years before the Prophet's
time: here, it is said, the Arabs were united in worship of Allah, hence
they scattered and fell into idolatry, hither they return annually as
pilgrims to a shrine which had been originally dedicated to the One
Supreme Being, but which afterwards became a Pantheon of tribal deities.
This theory lies at the root of the Muḥammadan legend which I shall
now recount as briefly as possible, only touching on the salient points
of interest.

[Sidenote: Foundation of the Ka‘ba.]

In the Meccan valley--the primitive home of that portion of the Arab
race which claims descent from Ismá‘íl (Ishmael), the son of Ibráhím
(Abraham) by Hájar (Hagar)--stands an irregular, cube-shaped building of
small dimensions--the Ka‘ba. Legend attributes its foundation to Adam,
who built it by Divine command after a celestial archetype. At the
Deluge it was taken up into heaven, but was rebuilt on its former site
by Abraham and Ishmael. While they were occupied in this work Gabriel
brought the celebrated Black Stone, which is set in the southeast corner
of the building, and he also instructed them in the ceremonies of the
Pilgrimage. When all was finished Abraham stood on a rock known to later
ages as the _Maqámu Ibráhím_, and, turning to the four quarters of the
sky, made proclamation: "O ye people! The Pilgrimage to the Ancient
House is prescribed unto you. Hearken to your Lord!" And from every part
of the world came the answer: "_Labbayka ’lláhumma, labbayka_"--_i.e._,
"We obey, O God, we obey."

[Sidenote: Idolatry introduced at Mecca.]

The descendants of Ishmael multiplied exceedingly, so that the barren
valley could no longer support them, and a great number wandered forth
to other lands. They were succeeded as rulers of the sacred territory by
the tribe of Jurhum, who waxed in pride and evil-doing until the
vengeance of God fell upon them. Mention has frequently been made of the
Bursting of the Dyke of Ma’rib, which caused an extensive movement of
Yemenite stocks to the north. The invaders halted in the Ḥijáz, and,
having almost exterminated the Jurhumites, resumed their journey. One
group, however--the Banú Khuzá‘a, led by their chief Luḥayy--settled
in the neighbourhood of Mecca. ‘Amr, son of Luḥayy, was renowned
among the Arabs for his wealth and generosity. Ibn Hishám says: 'I have
been told by a learned man that ‘Amr b. Luḥayy went from Mecca to
Syria on some business and when he arrived at Má’ab, in the land of
al-Balqá, he found the inhabitants, who were ‘Amálíq, worshipping idols.
"What are these idols?" he inquired. "They are idols that send us rain
when we ask them for rain, and help us when we ask them for help." "Will
ye not give me one of them," said ‘Amr, "that I may take it to Arabia to
be worshipped there?" So they gave him an idol called Hubal, which he
brought to Mecca and set it up and bade the people worship and venerate
it.'[128] Following his example, the Arabs brought their idols and
installed them round the sanctuary. The triumph of Paganism was
complete. We are told that hundreds of idols were destroyed by
Muḥammad when he entered Mecca at the head of a Moslem army in 8 A.H.
= 629 A.D.

[Sidenote: The Quraysh.]

To return to the posterity of Ismá‘íl through ‘Adnán: the principal of
their descendants who remained in the Ḥijáz were the Hudhayl, the
Kinána, and the Quraysh. The last-named tribe must now engage our
attention almost exclusively. During the century before Muḥammad we
find them in undisputed possession of Mecca and acknowledged guardians
of the Ka‘ba--an office which they administered with a shrewd
appreciation of its commercial value. Their rise to power is related as

  [Sidenote: The story of Quṣayy.]

  [Sidenote: Quṣayy master of Mecca.]

  Kiláb b. Murra, a man of Quraysh, had two sons, Zuhra and Zayd. The
  latter was still a young child when his father died, and soon
  afterwards his mother, Fáṭima, who had married again, left Mecca,
  taking Zayd with her, and went to live in her new husband's home
  beside the Syrian borders. Zayd grew up far from his native land,
  and for this reason he got the name of Quṣayy--_i.e._, 'Little
  Far-away.' When he reached man's estate and discovered his true
  origin he returned to Mecca, where the hegemony was wholly in the
  hands of the Khuzá‘ites under their chieftain, Ḥulayl b.
  Ḥubshiyya, with the determination to procure the superintendence
  of the Ka‘ba for his own people, the Quraysh, who as pure-blooded
  descendants of Ismá‘íl had the best right to that honour. By his
  marriage with Ḥubbá, the daughter of Ḥulayl, he hoped to
  inherit the privileges vested in his father-in-law, but Ḥulayl on
  his deathbed committed the keys of the Ka‘ba to a kinsman named Abú
  Ghubshán. Not to be baffled, Quṣayy made the keeper drunk and
  persuaded him to sell the keys for a skin of wine--hence the
  proverbs "A greater fool than Abú Ghubshán" and "Abú Ghubshán's
  bargain," denoting a miserable fraud. Naturally the Khuza‘ites did
  not acquiesce in the results of this transaction; they took up arms,
  but Quṣayy was prepared for the struggle and won a decisive
  victory. He was now master of Temple and Town and could proceed to
  the work of organisation. His first step was to bring together the
  Quraysh, who had previously been dispersed over a wide area, into
  the Meccan valley--this earned for him the title of _al-Mujammi‘_
  (the Congregator)--so that each family had its allotted quarter. He
  built a House of Assembly (_Dáru ’l-Nadwa_), where matters affecting
  the common weal were discussed by the Elders of the tribe. He also
  instituted and centred in himself a number of dignities in
  connection with the government of the Ka‘ba and the administration
  of the Pilgrimage, besides others of a political and military
  character. Such was his authority that after his death, no less than
  during his life, all these ordinances were regarded by the Quraysh
  as sacred and inviolable.

[Sidenote: Mecca in the sixth century after Christ.]

The death of Quṣayy may be placed in the latter half of the fifth
century. His descendant, the Prophet Muḥammad, was born about a
hundred years afterwards, in 570 or 571 A.D. With one notable exception,
to be mentioned immediately, the history of Mecca during the period thus
defined is a record of petty factions unbroken by any event of
importance. The Prophet's ancestors fill the stage and assume a
commanding position, which in all likelihood they never possessed; the
historical rivalry of the Umayyads and ‘Abbásids appears in the persons
of their founders, Umayya and Háshim--and so forth. Meanwhile the
influence of the Quraysh was steadily maintained and extended. The Ka‘ba
had become a great national rendezvous, and the crowds of pilgrims which
it attracted from almost every Arabian clan not only raised the credit
of the Quraysh, but also materially contributed to their commercial
prosperity. It has already been related how Abraha, the Abyssinian
viceroy of Yemen, resolved to march against Mecca with the avowed
purpose of avenging upon the Ka‘ba a sacrilege committed by one of the
Quraysh in the church at Ṣan‘á. Something of that kind may have
served as a pretext, but no doubt his real aim was to conquer Mecca and
to gain control of her trade.

[Sidenote: The Year of the Elephant.]

[Sidenote: The Abyssinians at Mecca.]

This memorable expedition[129] is said by Moslem historians to have
taken place in the year of Muḥammad's birth (about 570 A.D.), usually
known as the Year of the Elephant--a proof that the Arabs were deeply
impressed by the extraordinary spectacle of these huge animals, one or
more of which accompanied the Abyssinian force. The report of Abraha's
preparations filled the tribesmen with dismay. At first they endeavoured
to oppose his march, regarding the defence of the Ka‘ba as a sacred
duty, but they soon lost heart, and Abraha, after defeating Dhú Nafar, a
Ḥimyarite chieftain, encamped in the neighbourhood of Mecca without
further resistance. He sent the following message to ‘Abdu
’l-Muṭṭalib, the Prophet's grandfather, who was at that time the
most influential personage in Mecca: "I have not come to wage war on
you, but only to destroy the Temple. Unless you take up arms in its
defence, I have no wish to shed your blood." ‘Abdu ’l-Muṭṭalib
replied: "By God, we seek not war, for which we are unable. This is
God's holy House and the House of Abraham, His Friend; it is for Him to
protect His House and Sanctuary; if He abandons it, we cannot defend

  [Sidenote: ‘Abdu ’l-Muṭṭalib's interview with Abraha.]

  Then ‘Abdu ’l-Muṭṭalib was conducted by the envoy to the
  Abyssinian camp, as Abraha had ordered. There he inquired after Dhú
  Nafar, who was his friend, and found him a prisoner. "O Dhú Nafar,"
  said he, "can you do aught in that which has befallen us?" Dhú Nafar
  answered, "What can a man do who is a captive in the hands of a
  king, expecting day and night to be put to death? I can do nothing
  at all in the matter, but Unays, the elephant-driver, is my friend;
  I will send to him and press your claims on his consideration and
  ask him to procure you an audience with the king. Tell Unays what
  you wish: he will plead with the king in your favour if he can." So
  Dhú Nafar sent for Unays and said to him, "O Unays, ‘Abdu
  ’l-Muṭṭalib is lord of Quraysh and master of the caravans of
  Mecca. He feeds the people in the plain and the wild creatures on
  the mountain-tops. The king has seized two hundred of his camels.
  Now get him admitted to the king's presence and help him to the best
  of your power." Unays consented, and soon ‘Abdu ’l-Muṭṭalib
  stood before the king. When Abraha saw him he held him in too high
  respect to let him sit in an inferior place, but was unwilling that
  the Abyssinians should see the Arab chief, who was a large man and a
  comely, seated on a level with himself; he therefore descended from
  his throne and sat on his carpet and bade ‘Abdu ’l-Muṭṭalib
  sit beside him. Then he said to his dragoman, "Ask him what he wants
  of me." ‘Abdu ’l-Muṭṭalib replied, "I want the king to restore
  to me two hundred camels of mine which he has taken away." Abraha
  said to the dragoman, "Tell him: You pleased me when I first saw
  you, but now that you have spoken to me I hold you cheap. What! do
  you speak to me of two hundred camels which I have taken, and omit
  to speak of a temple venerated by you and your fathers which I have
  come to destroy?" Then said ‘Abdu ’l-Muṭṭalib: "The camels are
  mine, but the Temple belongs to another, who will defend it," and on
  the king exclaiming, "He cannot defend it from me," he said, "That
  is your affair; only give me back my camels."

  As it is related in a more credible version, the tribes settled
  round Mecca sent ambassadors, of whom ‘Abdu ’l-Muṭṭalib was
  one, offering to surrender a third part of their possessions to
  Abraha on condition that he should spare the Temple, but he refused.
  Having recovered his camels, ‘Abdu ’l-Muṭṭalib returned to the
  Quraysh, told them what had happened, and bade them leave the city
  and take shelter in the mountains. Then he went to the Ka‘ba,
  accompanied by several of the Quraysh, to pray for help against
  Abraha and his army. Grasping the ring of the door, he cried:--

  "_O God, defend Thy neighbouring folk even as a man his gear[130]
    Let not their Cross and guileful plans defeat the plans Thyself
    But if Thou make it so, 'tis well: according to Thy will it

  [Sidenote: Rout of the Abyssinians.]

  Next morning, when Abraha prepared to enter Mecca, his elephant
  knelt down and would not budge, though they beat its head with an
  axe and thrust sharp stakes into its flanks; but when they turned it
  in the direction of Yemen, it rose up and trotted with alacrity.
  Then God sent from the sea a flock of birds like swallows every one
  of which carried three stones as large as a chick-pea or a lentil,
  one in its bill and one in each claw, and all who were struck by
  those stones perished.[132] The rest fled in disorder, dropping down
  as they ran or wherever they halted to quench their thirst. Abraha
  himself was smitten with a plague so that his limbs rotted off

These details are founded on the 105th chapter of the Koran, entitled
'The Súra of the Elephant,' which may be freely rendered as follows:--

 "Hast not thou seen the people of the Elephant, how dealt
    with them the Lord?
  Did not He make their plot to end in ruin abhorred?--
  When He sent against them birds, horde on horde,
  And stones of baked clay upon them poured,
  And made them as leaves of corn devoured."

The part played by ‘Abdu ’l-Muṭṭalib in the story is, of course, a
pious fiction designed to glorify the Holy City and to claim for the
Prophet's family fifty years before Islam a predominance which they did
not obtain until long afterwards; but equally of course the legend
reflects Muḥammadan belief, and may be studied with advantage as a
characteristic specimen of its class.

"When God repulsed the Abyssinians from Mecca and smote them with His
vengeance, the Arabs held the Quraysh in high respect and said, 'They
are God's people: God hath fought for them and hath defended them
against their enemy;' and made poems on this matter."[134] The following
verses, according to Ibn Isḥáq, are by Abu ’l-Ṣalt b. Abí Rabí‘a
of Thaqíf; others more reasonably ascribe them to his son Umayya, a
well-known poet and monotheist (Ḥaníf) contemporary with

  [Sidenote: Verses by Umayya b. Abi ’l-Ṣalt.]

 "Lo, the signs of our Lord are everlasting,
  None disputes them except the unbeliever.
  He created Day and Night: unto all men
  Is their Reckoning ordained, clear and certain.
  Gracious Lord! He illumines the daytime
  With a sun widely scattering radiance.
  He the Elephant stayed at Mughammas
  So that sore it limped as though it were hamstrung,
  Cleaving close to its halter, and down dropped,
  As one falls from the crag of a mountain.
  Gathered round it were princes of Kinda,
  Noble heroes, fierce hawks in the mellay.
  There they left it: they all fled together,
  Every man with his shank-bone broken.
  Vain before God is every religion,
  When the dead rise, except the Ḥanífite.[135]"

[Sidenote: Battle of Dhú Qár (circa 610 A.D.).]

The patriotic feelings aroused in the Arabs of the Ḥijáz by the
Abyssinian invasion--feelings which must have been shared to some extent
by the Bedouins generally--received a fresh stimulus through events
which occurred about forty years after this time on the other side of
the peninsula. It will be remembered that the Lakhmite dynasty at
Ḥíra came to an end with Nu‘mán III, who was cruelly executed by
Khusraw Parwéz (602 or 607 A.D.).[136] Before his death he had deposited
his arms and other property with Háni’, a chieftain of the Banú Bakr.
These were claimed by Khusraw, and as Háni’ refused to give them up, a
Persian army was sent to Dhú Qár, a place near Kúfa abounding in water
and consequently a favourite resort of the Bakrites during the dry
season. A desperate conflict ensued, in which the Persians were
completely routed.[137] Although the forces engaged were comparatively
small,[138] this victory was justly regarded by the Arabs as marking the
commencement of a new order of things; _e.g._, it is related that
Muḥammad said when the tidings reached him: "This is the first day on
which the Arabs have obtained satisfaction from the Persians." The
desert tribes, hitherto overshadowed by the Sásánian Empire and held in
check by the powerful dynasty of Ḥíra, were now confident and
aggressive. They began to hate and despise the Colossus which they no
longer feared, and which, before many years had elapsed, they trampled
in the dust.



"When there appeared a poet in a family of the Arabs, the other tribes
round about would gather together to that family and wish them joy of
their good luck. Feasts would be got ready, the women of the tribe would
join together in bands, playing upon lutes, as they were wont to do at
bridals, and the men and boys would congratulate one another; for a poet
was a defence to the honour of them all, a weapon to ward off insult
from their good name, and a means of perpetuating their glorious deeds
and of establishing their fame for ever. And they used not to wish one
another joy but for three things--the birth of a boy, the coming to
light of a poet, and the foaling of a noble mare."[139]

As far as extant literature is concerned--and at this time there was
only a spoken literature, which was preserved by oral tradition, and
first committed to writing long afterwards--the _Jáhiliyya_ or
Pre-islamic Age covers scarcely more than a century, from about 500
A.D., when the oldest poems of which we have any record were composed,
to the year of Muḥammad's Flight to Medína (622 A.D.), which is the
starting-point of a new era in Arabian history. The influence of these
hundred and twenty years was great and lasting. They saw the rise and
incipient decline of a poetry which most Arabic-speaking Moslems have
always regarded as a model of unapproachable excellence; a poetry rooted
in the life of the people, that insensibly moulded their minds and fixed
their character and made them morally and spiritually a nation long
before Muḥammad welded the various conflicting groups into a single
organism, animated, for some time at least, by a common purpose. In
those days poetry was no luxury for the cultured few, but the sole
medium of literary expression. Every tribe had its poets, who freely
uttered what they felt and thought. Their unwritten words "flew across
the desert faster than arrows," and came home to the hearts and bosoms
of all who heard them. Thus in the midst of outward strife and
disintegration a unifying principle was at work. Poetry gave life and
currency to an ideal of Arabian virtue (_muruwwa_), which, though based
on tribal community of blood and insisting that only ties of blood were
sacred, nevertheless became an invisible bond between diverse clans, and
formed, whether consciously or not, the basis of a national community of

[Sidenote: Origins of Arabian poetry]

In the following pages I propose to trace the origins of Arabian poetry,
to describe its form, contents, and general features, to give some
account of the most celebrated Pre-islamic poets and collections of
Pre-islamic verse, and finally to show in what manner it was preserved
and handed down.

By the ancient Arabs the poet (_shá‘ir_, plural _shu‘ará_), as his name
implies, was held to be a person endowed with supernatural knowledge, a
wizard in league with spirits (_jinn_) or satans (_shayáṭín_) and
dependent on them for the magical powers which he displayed. This view
of his personality, as well as the influential position which he
occupied, are curiously indicated by the story of a certain youth who
was refused the hand of his beloved on the ground that he was neither a
poet nor a soothsayer nor a water-diviner.[140] The idea of poetry as an
art was developed afterwards; the pagan _shá‘ir_ is the oracle of his
tribe, their guide in peace and their champion in war. It was to him
they turned for counsel when they sought new pastures, only at his word
would they pitch or strike their 'houses of hair,' and when the tired
and thirsty wanderers found a well and drank of its water and washed
themselves, led by him they may have raised their voices together and
sung, like Israel--

 "Spring up, O well, sing ye unto it."[141]

[Sidenote: Satire.]

Besides fountain-songs, war-songs, and hymns to idols, other kinds of
poetry must have existed in the earliest times--_e.g._, the love-song
and the dirge. The powers of the _shá‘ir_, however, were chiefly
exhibited in Satire (_hijá_), which in the oldest known form "introduces
and accompanies the tribal feud, and is an element of war just as
important as the actual fighting."[142] The menaces which he hurled
against the foe were believed to be inevitably fatal. His rhymes, often
compared to arrows, had all the effect of a solemn curse spoken by a
divinely inspired prophet or priest,[143] and their pronunciation was
attended with peculiar ceremonies of a symbolic character, such as
anointing the hair on one side of the head, letting the mantle hang down
loosely, and wearing only one sandal.[144] Satire retained something of
these ominous associations at a much later period when the magic
utterance of the _shá‘ir_ had long given place to the lampoon by which
the poet reviles his enemies and holds them up to shame.

[Sidenote: Saj‘.]

The obscure beginnings of Arabian poetry, presided over by the magician
and his familiar spirits, have left not a rack behind in the shape of
literature, but the task of reconstruction is comparatively easy where
we are dealing with a people so conservative and tenacious of antiquity
as the Arabs. Thus it may be taken for certain that the oldest form of
poetical speech in Arabia was rhyme without metre (_Saj‘_), or, as we
should say, 'rhymed prose,' although the fact of Muḥammad's
adversaries calling him a poet because he used it in the Koran shows the
light in which it was regarded even after the invention and elaboration
of metre. Later on, as we shall see, _Saj‘_ became a merely rhetorical
ornament, the distinguishing mark of all eloquence whether spoken or
written, but originally it had a deeper, almost religious, significance
as the special form adopted by poets, soothsayers, and the like in their
supernatural revelations and for conveying to the vulgar every kind of
mysterious and esoteric lore.

[Sidenote: Rajaz.]

Out of _Saj‘_ was evolved the most ancient of the Arabian metres, which
is known by the name of _Rajaz_.[145] This is an irregular iambic metre
usually consisting of four or six--an Arab would write 'two or
three'--feet to the line; and it is a peculiarity of _Rajaz_, marking
its affinity to _Saj‘_, that all the lines rhyme with each other,
whereas in the more artificial metres only the opening verse[146] is
doubly rhymed. A further characteristic of _Rajaz_ is that it should be
uttered extempore, a few verses at a time--commonly verses expressing
some personal feeling, emotion, or experience, like those of the aged
warrior Durayd b. Zayd b. Nahd when he lay dying:--

 "The house of death[147] is builded for Durayd to-day.
  Could Time be worn out, sure had I worn Time away.
  No single foe but I had faced and brought to bay.
  The spoils I gathered in, how excellent were they!
  The women that I loved, how fine was their array!"[148]

[Sidenote: Other metres.]

Here would have been the proper place to give an account of the
principal Arabian metres--the 'Perfect' (_Kámil_), the 'Ample' (_Wáfir_)
the 'Long' (_Ṭawíl_), the 'Wide' (_Basiṭ_), the 'Light'
(_Khafíf_), and several more--but in order to save valuable space I must
content myself with referring the reader to the extremely lucid
treatment of this subject by Sir Charles Lyall in the Introduction to
his _Ancient Arabian Poetry_, pp. xlv-lii. All the metres are
quantitative, as in Greek and Latin. Their names and laws were unknown
to the Pre-islamic bards: the rules of prosody were first deduced from
the ancient poems and systematised by the grammarian, Khalíl b. Ahmad (†
791 A.D.), to whom the idea is said to have occurred as he watched a
coppersmith beating time on the anvil with his hammer.

[Sidenote: The oldest extant poems.]

We have now to consider the form and matter of the oldest extant poems
in the Arabic language. Between these highly developed productions and
the rude doggerel of _Saj‘_ or _Rajaz_ there lies an interval, the
length of which it is impossible even to conjecture. The first poets are
already consummate masters of the craft. "The number and complexity of
the measures which they use, their established laws of quantity and
rhyme, and the uniform manner in which they introduce the subject of
their poems,[149] notwithstanding the distance which often separated one
composer from another, all point to a long previous study and
cultivation of the art of expression and the capacities of their
language, a study of which no record now remains."[150]

[Sidenote: Their date.]

It is not improbable that the dawn of the Golden Age of Arabian Poetry
coincided with the first decade of the sixth century after Christ. About
that time the War of Basús, the chronicle of which has preserved a
considerable amount of contemporary verse, was in full blaze; and the
first Arabian ode was composed, according to tradition, by Muhalhil b.
Rabí‘a the Taghlibite on the death of his brother, the chieftain Kulayb,
which caused war to break out between Bakr and Taghlib. At any rate,
during the next hundred years in almost every part of the peninsula we
meet with a brilliant succession of singers, all using the same poetical
dialect and strictly adhering to the same rules of composition. The
fashion which they set maintained itself virtually unaltered down to the
end of the Umayyad period (750 A.D.), and though challenged by some
daring spirits under the ‘Abbásid Caliphate, speedily reasserted its
supremacy, which at the present day is almost as absolute as ever.

[Sidenote: The Qaṣída.]

This fashion centres in the _Qaṣída_,[151] or Ode, the only form, or
rather the only finished type of poetry that existed in what, for want
of a better word, may be called the classical period of Arabic
literature. The verses (_abyát_, singular _bayt_) of which it is built
vary in number, but are seldom less than twenty-five or more than a
hundred; and the arrangement of the rhymes is such that, while the two
halves of the first verse rhyme together, the same rhyme is repeated
once in the second, third, and every following verse to the end of the
poem. Blank-verse is alien to the Arabs, who regard rhyme not as a
pleasing ornament or a "troublesome bondage," but as a vital organ of
poetry. The rhymes are usually feminine, _e.g._, sa_khíná_, tu_líná_,
mu_híná_; mukh_lidí_, _yadí_, ‘uw_wadí_; ri_jámuhá_, si_lámuhá_,
ḥa_rámuhá_. To surmount the difficulties of the monorhyme demands
great technical skill even in a language of which the peculiar formation
renders the supply of rhymes extraordinarily abundant. The longest of
the _Mu‘allaqát_, the so-called 'Long Poems,' is considerably shorter
than Gray's _Elegy_. An Arabian Homer or Chaucer must have condescended
to prose. With respect to metre the poet may choose any except _Rajaz_,
which is deemed beneath the dignity of the Ode, but his liberty does not
extend either to the choice of subjects or to the method of handling
them: on the contrary, the course of his ideas is determined by rigid
conventions which he durst not overstep.

  [Sidenote: Ibn Qutayba's account of the contents and divisions of
  the Ode.]

  "I have heard," says Ibn Qutayba, "from a man of learning that the
  composer of Odes began by mentioning the deserted dwelling-places
  and the relics and traces of habitation. Then he wept and complained
  and addressed the desolate encampment, and begged his companion to
  make a halt, in order that he might have occasion to speak of those
  who had once lived there and afterwards departed; for the dwellers
  in tents were different from townsmen or villagers in respect of
  coming and going, because they moved from one water-spring to
  another, seeking pasture and searching out the places where rain had
  fallen. Then to this he linked the erotic prelude (_nasíb_), and
  bewailed the violence of his love and the anguish of separation from
  his mistress and the extremity of his passion and desire, so as to
  win the hearts of his hearers and divert their eyes towards him and
  invite their ears to listen to him, since the song of love touches
  men's souls and takes hold of their hearts, God having put it in the
  constitution of His creatures to love dalliance and the society of
  women, in such wise that we find very few but are attached thereto
  by some tie or have some share therein, whether lawful or
  unpermitted. Now, when the poet had assured himself of an attentive
  hearing, he followed up his advantage and set forth his claim: thus
  he went on to complain of fatigue and want of sleep and travelling
  by night and of the noonday heat, and how his camel had been reduced
  to leanness. And when, after representing all the discomfort and
  danger of his journey, he knew that he had fully justified his hope
  and expectation of receiving his due meed from the person to whom
  the poem was addressed, he entered upon the panegyric (_madíḥ_),
  and incited him to reward, and kindled his generosity by exalting
  him above his peers and pronouncing the greatest dignity, in
  comparison with his, to be little."[152]

Hundreds of Odes answer exactly to this description, which must not,
however, be regarded as the invariable model. The erotic prelude is
often omitted, especially in elegies; or if it does not lead directly to
the main subject, it may be followed by a faithful and minute
delineation of the poet's horse or camel which bears him through the
wilderness with a speed like that of the antelope, the wild ass, or the
ostrich: Bedouin poetry abounds in fine studies of animal life.[153] The
choice of a motive is left open. Panegyric, no doubt, paid better than
any other, and was therefore the favourite; but in Pre-islamic times the
poet could generally please himself. The _qaṣída_ is no organic
whole: rather its unity resembles that of a series of pictures by the
same hand or, to employ an Eastern trope, of pearls various in size and
quality threaded on a necklace.

The ancient poetry may be defined as an illustrative criticism of
Pre-islamic life and thought. Here the Arab has drawn himself at full
length without embellishment or extenuation.

It is not mere chance that Abú Tammám's famous anthology is called the
_Ḥamása_, _i.e._, 'Fortitude,' from the title of its first chapter,
which occupies nearly a half of the book. 'Ḥamása' denotes the
virtues most highly prized by the Arabs--bravery in battle, patience in
misfortune, persistence in revenge, protection of the weak and defiance
of the strong; the will, as Tennyson has said,

 "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

[Sidenote: The Ideal Arab hero.]

[Sidenote: Shanfará.]

As types of the ideal Arab hero we may take Shanfará of Azd and his
comrade in foray, Ta’abbaṭa Sharran. Both were brigands, outlaws,
swift runners, and excellent poets. Of the former

  "it is said that he was captured when a child from his tribe by the
  Banú Salámán, and brought up among them: he did not learn his origin
  until he had grown up, when he vowed vengeance against his captors,
  and returned to his own tribe. His oath was that he would slay a
  hundred men of Salámán; he slew ninety-eight, when an ambush of his
  enemies succeeded in taking him prisoner. In the struggle one of his
  hands was hewn off by a sword stroke, and, taking it in the other,
  he flung it in the face of a man of Salámán and killed him, thus
  making ninety-nine. Then he was overpowered and slain, with one
  still wanting to make up his number. As his skull lay bleaching on
  the ground, a man of his enemies passed by that way and kicked it
  with his foot; a splinter of bone entered his foot, the wound
  mortified, and he died, thus completing the hundred."[154]

The following passage is translated from Shanfará's splendid Ode named
_Lámiyyatu ’l-‘Arab_ (the poem rhymed in _l_ of the Arabs), in which he
describes his own heroic character and the hardships of a predatory

 "And somewhere the noble find a refuge afar from scathe,
  The outlaw a lonely spot where no kin with hatred burn.
  Oh, never a prudent man, night-faring in hope or fear,
  Hard pressed on the face of earth, but still he hath room to turn.

  To me now, in your default, are comrades a wolf untired,
  A sleek leopard, and a fell hyena with shaggy mane:[156]
  True comrades: they ne'er let out the secret in trust with them,
  Nor basely forsake their friend because that he brought them bane.

  And each is a gallant heart and ready at honour's call,
  Yet I, when the foremost charge, am bravest of all the brave;
  But if they with hands outstretched are seizing the booty won,
  The slowest am I whenas most quick is the greedy knave.

  By naught save my generous will I reach to the height of worth
  Above them, and sure the best is he with the will to give.
  Yea, well I am rid of those who pay not a kindness back,
  Of whom I have no delight though neighbours to me they live.

  Know are companions three at last: an intrepid soul,
  A glittering trenchant blade, a tough bow of ample size,
  Loud-twanging, the sides thereof smooth-polished, a handsome bow
  Hung down from the shoulder-belt by thongs in a comely wise,
  That groans, when the arrow slips away, like a woman crushed
  By losses, bereaved of all her children, who wails and cries."

On quitting his tribe, who cast him out when they were threatened on all
sides by enemies seeking vengeance for the blood that he had spilt,
Shanfará said:--

 "Bury me not! Me you are forbidden to bury,
  But thou, O hyena, soon wilt feast and make merry,
  When foes bear away mine head, wherein is the best of me,
  And leave on the battle-field for thee all the rest of me.
  Here nevermore I hope to live glad--a stranger
  Accurst, whose wild deeds have brought his people in danger."[157]

[Sidenote: Ta’abbaṭa Sharran.]

Thábit b. Jábir b. Sufyán of Fahm is said to have got his nickname,
Ta’abbaṭa Sharran, because one day his mother, who had seen him go
forth from his tent with a sword under his arm, on being asked, "Where
is Thábit?" replied, "I know not: he put a mischief under his arm-pit
(_ta’abbaṭa sharran_) and departed." According to another version of
the story, the 'mischief' was a Ghoul whom he vanquished and slew and
carried home in this manner. The following lines, which he addressed to
his cousin, Shams b. Málik, may be applied with equal justice to the
poet himself:--

  "Little he complains of labour that befalls him; much he wills;
  Diverse ways attempting, mightily his purpose he fulfils.
  Through one desert in the sun's heat, through another in starlight,
  Lonely   as the wild ass, rides he bare-backed Danger noon and night.
  He the foremost wind outpaceth, while in broken gusts it blows,
  Speeding onward, never slackening, never staying for repose.
  Prompt to dash upon the foeman, every minute watching well--
  Are his eyes in slumber lightly sealed, his heart stands sentinel.
  When the first advancing troopers rise to sight, he sets his hand
  From the scabbard forth to draw his sharp-edged, finely-mettled brand.
  When he shakes it in the breast-bone of a champion of the foe,
  How the grinning Fates in open glee their flashing side-teeth show!
  Solitude his chosen comrade, on he fares while overhead
  By the Mother of the mazy constellations he is led."[158]

[Sidenote: The old Arabian points of honour.]

These verses admirably describe the rudimentary Arabian virtues of
courage, hardness, and strength. We must now take a wider survey of the
moral ideas on which pagan society was built, and of which Pre-islamic
poetry is at once the promulgation and the record. There was no written
code, no legal or religious sanction--nothing, in effect, save the
binding force of traditional sentiment and opinion, _i.e._, Honour.
What, then, are the salient points of honour in which Virtue
(_Muruwwa_), as it was understood by the heathen Arabs, consists?

[Sidenote: Courage.]

Courage has been already mentioned. Arab courage is like that of the
ancient Greeks, "dependent upon excitement and vanishing quickly before
depression and delay."[159] Hence the Arab hero is defiant and boastful,
as he appears, _e.g._, in the _Mu‘allaqa_ of ‘Amr b. Kulthúm. When there
is little to lose by flight he will ride off unashamed; but he will
fight to the death for his womenfolk, who in serious warfare often
accompanied the tribe and were stationed behind the line of battle.[160]

 "When I saw the hard earth hollowed
  By our women's flying footprints,
  And Lamís her face uncovered
  Like the full moon of the skies,
  Showing forth her hidden beauties--
  Then the matter was grim earnest:
  I engaged their chief in combat,
  Seeing help no other wise."[161]

The tribal constitution was a democracy guided by its chief men, who
derived their authority from noble blood, noble character, wealth,
wisdom, and experience. As a Bedouin poet has said in homely language--

 "A folk that hath no chiefs must soon decay,
  And chiefs it hath not when the vulgar sway.
  Only with poles the tent is reared at last,
  And poles it hath not save the pegs hold fast
  But when the pegs and poles are once combined,
  Then stands accomplished that which was designed."[162]

[Sidenote: Loyalty.]

The chiefs, however, durst not lay commands or penalties on their
fellow-tribesmen. Every man ruled himself, and was free to rebuke
presumption in others. "_If you are our lord_" (_i.e._, if you act
discreetly as a _sayyid_ should), "_you will lord over us, but if you
are a prey to pride, go and be proud!_" (_i.e._, we will have nothing to
do with you).[163] Loyalty in the mouth of a pagan Arab did not mean
allegiance to his superiors, but faithful devotion to his equals; and it
was closely connected with the idea of kinship. The family and the
tribe, which included strangers living in the tribe under a covenant of
protection--to defend these, individually and collectively, was a sacred
duty. Honour required that a man should stand by his own people through
thick and thin.

 "I am of Ghaziyya: if she be in error, then I will err;
  And if Ghaziyya be guided right, I go right with her!"

sang Durayd b. Ṣimma, who had followed his kin, against his better
judgment, in a foray which cost the life of his brother ‘Abdulláh.[164]
If kinsmen seek help it should be given promptly, without respect to the
merits of the case; if they do wrong it should be suffered as long as
possible before resorting to violence.[165] The utilitarian view of
friendship is often emphasised, as in these verses:--

  Take for thy brother whom thou wilt in the days of peace,
  But know that when fighting comes thy kinsman alone is near.
  Thy true friend thy kinsman is, who answers thy call for aid
  With good will, when deeply drenched in bloodshed are sword and spear.
  Oh, never forsake thy kinsman e'en tho' he do thee wrong,
  For what he hath marred he mends thereafter and makes sincere."[166]

At the same time, notwithstanding their shrewd common sense, nothing is
more characteristic of the Arabs--heathen and Muḥammadan alike--than
the chivalrous devotion and disinterested self-sacrifice of which they
are capable on behalf of their friends. In particular, the ancient
poetry affords proof that they regarded with horror any breach of the
solemn covenant plighted between patron and client or host and guest.
This topic might be illustrated by many striking examples, but one will

  [Sidenote: The story of Samaw’al b. ‘Adiyá.]

  The Arabs say: "_Awfá mina ’l-Samaw’ali_"--"More loyal than
  al-Samaw’al"; or _Wafáun ka-wafá’i ’l-Samaw’ali_"--" A loyalty like
  that of al-Samaw’al." These proverbs refer to Samaw’al b. ‘Adiyá, an
  Arab of Jewish descent and Jew by religion, who lived in his castle,
  called al-Ablaq (The Piebald), at Taymá, some distance north of
  Medína. There he dug a well of sweet water, and would entertain the
  Arabs who used to alight beside it; and they supplied themselves
  with provisions from his castle and set up a market. It is related
  that the poet Imru’u ’l-Qays, while fleeing, hotly pursued by his
  enemies, towards Syria, took refuge with Samaw’al, and before
  proceeding on his way left in charge of his host five coats of mail
  which had been handed down as heirlooms by the princes of his
  family. Then he departed, and in due course arrived at
  Constantinople, where he besought the Byzantine emperor to help him
  to recover his lost kingdom. His appeal was not unsuccessful, but he
  died on the way home. Meanwhile his old enemy, the King of Ḥíra,
  sent an army under Ḥárith b. Ẓálim against Samaw’al, demanding
  that he should surrender the coats of mail. Samaw’al refused to
  betray the trust committed to him, and defended himself in his
  castle. The besiegers, however, captured his son, who had gone out
  to hunt. Ḥárith asked Samaw’al: "Dost thou know this lad?" "Yes,
  he is my son." "Then wilt thou deliver what is in thy possession, or
  shall I slay him?" Samaw’al answered: "Do with him as thou wilt. I
  will never break my pledge nor give up the property of my
  guest-friend." So Ḥárith smote the lad with his sword and clove
  him through the middle. Then he raised the siege. And Samaw’al said

  "_I was true with the mail-coats of the Kindite,[167]
    I am true though many a one is blamed for treason.
    Once did ‘Ádiyá, my father, exhort me:
   'O Samaw’al, ne'er destroy what I have builded.'
    For me built ‘Ádiyá a strong-walled castle
    With a well where I draw water at pleasure;
    So high, the eagle slipping back is baffled.
    When wrong befalls me I endure not tamely._"[168]

The Bedouin ideal of generosity and hospitality is personified in
Ḥátim of Ṭayyi’, of whom many anecdotes are told. We may learn
from the following one how extravagant are an Arab's notions on this

  [Sidenote: Ḥátim of Ṭayyi’.]

  When Ḥátim's mother was pregnant she dreamed that she was asked,
  "Which dost thou prefer?--a generous son called Ḥátim, or ten
  like those of other folk, lions in the hour of battle, brave lads
  and strong of limb?" and that she answered, "Ḥátim." Now, when
  Ḥátim grew up he was wont to take out his food, and if he found
  any one to share it he would eat, otherwise he threw it away. His
  father, seeing that he wasted his food, gave him a slave-girl and a
  mare with her foal and sent him to herd the camels. On reaching the
  pasture, Ḥátim began to search for his fellows, but none was in
  sight; then he came to the road, but found no one there. While he
  was thus engaged he descried a party of riders on the road and went
  to meet them. "O youth," said they, "hast thou aught to entertain us
  withal?" He answered: "Do ye ask me of entertainment when ye see the
  camels?" Now, these riders were ‘Abíd b. al-Abras and Bishr b. Abí
  Kházim and Nábigha al-Dhubyání, and they were on their way to King
  Nu‘mán.[169] Ḥátim slaughtered three camels for them, whereupon
  ‘Abíd said: "We desired no entertainment save milk, but if thou must
  needs charge thyself with something more, a single young she-camel
  would have sufficed us." Ḥátim replied: "That I know, but seeing
  different faces and diverse fashions I thought ye were not of the
  same country, and I wished that each of you should mention what ye
  saw, on returning home." So they spoke verses in praise of him and
  celebrated his generosity, and Ḥátim said: "I wished to bestow a
  kindness upon you, but your bounty is greater than mine. I swear to
  God that I will hamstring every camel in the herd unless ye come
  forward and divide them among yourselves." The poets did as he
  desired, and each man received ninety-nine camels; then they
  proceeded on their journey to Nu‘mán. When Ḥátim's father heard
  of this he came to him and asked, "Where are the camels?" "O my
  father," replied Ḥátim, "by means of them I have conferred on
  thee everlasting fame and honour that will cleave to thee like the
  ring of the ringdove, and men will always bear in mind some verse of
  poetry in which we are praised. This is thy recompense for the
  camels." On hearing these words his father said, "Didst thou with my
  camels thus?" "Yes." "By God, I will never dwell with thee again."
  So he went forth with his family, and Ḥátim was left alone with
  his slave-girl and his mare and the mare's foal.[170]

[Sidenote: Ḥátim's daughter before the Prophet.]

We are told that Ḥátim's daughter was led as a captive before the
Prophet and thus addressed him: "'O Muḥammad, my sire is dead, and he
who would have come to plead for me is gone. Release me, if it seem good
to thee, and do not let the Arabs rejoice at my misfortune; for I am the
daughter of the chieftain of my people. My father was wont to free the
captive, and protect those near and dear to him, and entertain the
guest, and satisfy the hungry, and console the afflicted, and give food
and greeting to all; and never did he turn away any who sought a boon. I
am Ḥátim's daughter.' The Prophet (on whom be the blessing and peace
of God) answered her: 'O maiden, the true believer is such as thou hast
described. Had thy father been an Islamite, verily we should have said,
"God have mercy upon him!" Let her go,' he continued, 'for her sire
loved noble manners, and God loves them likewise.'"[171]

Ḥátim was a poet of some repute.[172] The following lines are
addressed to his wife, Máwiyya:--

 "O daughter of ‘Abdulláh and Málik and him who wore
  The two robes of Yemen stuff--the hero that rode the roan,
  When thou hast prepared the meal, entreat to partake thereof
  A guest--I am not the man to eat, like a churl, alone--:
  Some traveller thro' the night, or house-neighbour; for in sooth
  I fear the reproachful talk of men after I am gone.
  The guest's slave am I, 'tis true, as long as he bides with me,
  Although in my nature else no trait of the slave is shown."[173]

[Sidenote: Position of women.]

[Sidenote: Arabian heroines.]

[Sidenote: Fáṭima daughter of Khurshub.]

[Sidenote: Fukayha.]

Here it will be convenient to make a short digression in order that the
reader may obtain, if not a complete view, at least some glimpses of the
position and influence of women in Pre-islamic society. On the whole,
their position was high and their influence great. They were free to
choose their husbands, and could return, if ill-treated or displeased,
to their own people; in some cases they even offered themselves in
marriage and had the right of divorce. They were regarded not as slaves
and chattels, but as equals and companions. They inspired the poet to
sing and the warrior to fight. The chivalry of the Middle Ages is,
perhaps, ultimately traceable to heathen Arabia. "Knight-errantry, the
riding forth on horseback in search of adventures, the rescue of captive
maidens, the succour rendered everywhere to women in adversity--all
these were essentially Arabian ideas, as was the very name of
_chivalry_, the connection of honourable conduct with the horse-rider,
the man of noble blood, the cavalier."[174] But the nobility of the
women is not only reflected in the heroism and devotion of the men; it
stands recorded in song, in legend, and in history. Fáṭima, the
daughter of Khurshub, was one of three noble matrons who bore the title
_al-Munjibát_, 'the Mothers of Heroes.' She had seven sons, three of
whom, viz., Rabí‘ and ‘Umára and Anas, were called 'the Perfect'
(_al-Kamala_). One day Ḥamal b. Badr the Fazárite raided the Banú
‘Abs, the tribe to which Fáṭima belonged, and made her his prisoner.
As he led away the camel on which she was mounted at the time, she
cried: "Man, thy wits are wandering. By God, if thou take me captive,
and if we leave behind us this hill which is now in front of us, surely
there will never be peace between thee and the sons of Ziyád" (Ziyád was
the name of her husband), "because people will say what they please, and
the mere suspicion of evil is enough." "I will carry thee off," said he,
"that thou mayest herd my camels." When Fáṭima knew that she was
certainly his prisoner she threw herself headlong from her camel and
died; so did she fear to bring dishonour on her sons.[175] Among the
names which have become proverbial for loyalty we find those of two
women, Fukayha and Umm Jamíl. As to Fukayha, it is related that her
clansmen, having been raided by the brigand Sulayk b. Sulaka, resolved
to attack him; but since he was a famous runner, on the advice of one of
their shaykhs they waited until he had gone down to the water and
quenched his thirst, for they knew that he would then be unable to run.
Sulayk, however, seeing himself caught, made for the nearest tents and
sought refuge with Fukayha. She threw her smock over him, and stood with
drawn sword between him and his pursuers; and as they still pressed on,
she tore the veil from her hair and shouted for help. Then her brothers
came and defended Sulayk, so that his life was saved.[176] Had space
allowed, it would have been a pleasant task to make some further
extracts from the long Legend of Noble Women. I have illustrated their
keen sense of honour and loyalty, but I might equally well have chosen
examples of gracious dignity and quick intelligence and passionate
affection. Many among them had the gift of poetry, which they bestowed
especially on the dead; it is a final proof of the high character and
position of women in Pre-islamic Arabia that the hero's mother and
sisters were deemed most worthy to mourn and praise him. The praise of
living women by their lovers necessarily takes a different tone; the
physical charms of the heroine are fully described, but we seldom find
any appreciation of moral beauty. One notable exception to this rule
occurs at the beginning of an ode by Shanfará. The passage defies
translation. It is, to quote Sir Charles Lyall, with whose faithful and
sympathetic rendering of the ancient poetry every student of Arabic
literature should be acquainted, "the most lovely picture of womanhood
which heathen Arabia has left us, drawn by the same hand that has given
us, in the unrivalled _Lâmîyah_, its highest ideal of heroic hardness
and virile strength."[177]


 "She charmed me, veiling bashfully her face,
  Keeping with quiet looks an even pace;
  Some lost thing seem to seek her downcast eyes:
  Aside she bends not--softly she replies.
  Ere dawn she carries forth her meal--a gift
  To hungry wives in days of dearth and thrift.
  No breath of blame up to her tent is borne,
  While many a neighbour's is the house of scorn.
  Her husband fears no gossip fraught with shame,
  For pure and holy is Umayma's name.
  Joy of his heart, to her he need not say
  When evening brings him home--'Where passed the day?'
  Slender and full in turn, of perfect height,
  A very fay were she, if beauty might
  Transform a child of earth into a fairy sprite!"[178]

Only in the freedom of the desert could the character thus exquisitely
delineated bloom and ripen. These verses, taken by themselves, are a
sufficient answer to any one who would maintain that Islam has increased
the social influence of Arabian women, although in some respects it may
have raised them to a higher level of civilisation.[179]

[Sidenote: Infanticide.]

There is, of course, another side to all this. In a land where might was
generally right, and where

                    "the simple plan
  That he should take who has the power
  And he should keep who can,"

was all but universally adopted, it would have been strange if the
weaker sex had not often gone to the wall. The custom which prevailed in
the _Jáhiliyya_ of burying female infants alive, revolting as it appears
to us, was due partly to the frequent famines with which Arabia is
afflicted through lack of rain, and partly to a perverted sense of
honour. Fathers feared lest they should have useless mouths to feed, or
lest they should incur disgrace in consequence of their daughters being
made prisoners of war. Hence the birth of a daughter was reckoned
calamitous, as we read in the Koran: "_They attribute daughters unto
God--far be it from Him!--and for themselves they desire them not. When
a female child is announced to one of them, his face darkens wrathfully:
he hides himself from his people because of the bad news,
thinking--'Shall I keep the child to my disgrace or cover it away in the
dust?'_"[180] It was said proverbially, "The despatch of daughters is a
kindness" and "The burial of daughters is a noble deed."[181] Islam put
an end to this barbarity, which is expressly forbidden by the Koran:
"_Kill not your children in fear of impoverishment: we will provide for
them and for you: verily their killing was a great sin._"[182] Perhaps
the most touching lines in Arabian poetry are those in which a father
struggling with poverty wishes that his daughter may die before him and
thus be saved from the hard mercies of her relatives:--


 "But for Umayma's sake I ne'er had grieved to want nor braved
  Night's blackest horror to bring home the morsel that she craved.
  Now my desire is length of days because I know too well
  The orphan girl's hard lot, with kin unkind enforced to dwell.
  I dread that some day poverty will overtake my child,
  And shame befall her when exposed to every passion wild.[183]
  She wishes me to live, but I must wish her dead, woe's me:
  Death is the noblest wooer a helpless maid can see.
  I fear an uncle may be harsh, a brother be unkind,
  When I would never speak a word that rankled in her mind."[184]

And another says:--

 "Were not my little daughters
  Like soft chicks huddling by me,
  Through earth and all its waters
  To win bread would I roam free.

  Our children among us going,
  Our very hearts they be;
  The wind upon them blowing
  Would banish sleep from me."[185]

[Sidenote: Treatment of enemies.]

"Odi et amo": these words of the poet might serve as an epitome of
Bedouin ethics. For, if the heathen Arab was, as we have seen, a good
friend to his friends, he had in the same degree an intense and deadly
feeling of hatred towards his enemies. He who did not strike back when
struck was regarded as a coward. No honourable man could forgive an
injury or fail to avenge it. An Arab, smarting under the loss of some
camels driven off by raiders, said of his kin who refused to help him:--

 "For all their numbers, they are good for naught,
  My people, against harm however light:
  They pardon wrong by evildoers wrought,
  Malice with loving kindness they requite."[186]

The last verse, which would have been high praise in the mouth of a
Christian or Muḥammadan moralist, conveyed to those who heard it a
shameful reproach. The approved method of dealing with an enemy is set
forth plainly enough in the following lines:--

 "Humble him who humbles thee, close tho' be your kindredship:
  If thou canst not humble him, wait till he is in thy grip.
  Friend him while thou must; strike hard when thou hast him on
    the hip."[187]

[Sidenote: Blood-revenge.]

Above all, blood called for blood. This obligation lay heavy on the
conscience of the pagan Arabs. Vengeance, with them, was "almost a
physical necessity, which if it be not obeyed will deprive its subject
of sleep, of appetite, of health." It was a tormenting thirst which
nothing would quench except blood, a disease of honour which might be
described as madness, although it rarely prevented the sufferer from
going to work with coolness and circumspection. Vengeance was taken upon
the murderer, if possible, or else upon one of his fellow-tribesmen.
Usually this ended the matter, but in some cases it was the beginning of
a regular blood-feud in which the entire kin of both parties were
involved; as, _e.g._, the murder of Kulayb led to the Forty Years' War
between Bakr and Taghlib.[188] The slain man's next of kin might accept
a blood-wit (_diya_), commonly paid in camels--the coin of the
country--as atonement for him. If they did so, however, it was apt to be
cast in their teeth that they preferred milk (_i.e._, she-camels) to
blood.[189] The true Arab feeling is expressed in verses like these:--

 "With the sword will I wash my shame away,
  Let God's doom bring on me what it may!"[190]

It was believed that until vengeance had been taken for the dead man,
his spirit appeared above his tomb in the shape of an owl (_háma_ or
_ṣadá_), crying "_Isqúní_" ("Give me to drink"). But pagan ideas of
vengeance were bound up with the Past far more than with the Future. The
shadowy after-life counted for little or nothing beside the
deeply-rooted memories of fatherly affection, filial piety, and
brotherhood in arms.

Though liable to abuse, the rough-and-ready justice of the vendetta had
a salutary effect in restraining those who would otherwise have indulged
their lawless instincts without fear of punishment. From our point of
view, however, its interest is not so much that of a primitive
institution as of a pervading element in old Arabian life and
literature. Full, or even adequate, illustration of this topic would
carry me far beyond the limits of my plan. I have therefore selected
from the copious material preserved in the _Book of Songs_ a
characteristic story which tells how Qays b. al-Khaṭím took vengeance
on the murderers of his father and his grandfather.[191]

  [Sidenote: The story of the vengeance of Qays b. al-Khaṭím.]

  It is related on the authority of Abú ‘Ubayda that ‘Adí b. ‘Amr, the
  grandfather of Qays, was slain by a man named Málik belonging to the
  Banú ‘Amr b. ‘Ámir b. Rabí‘a b. ‘Ámir b. Ṣa‘ṣa‘a; and his
  father, Khaṭím b. ‘Adí, by one of the Banú ‘Abd al-Qays who were
  settled in Hajar. Khaṭím died before avenging his father, ‘Adí,
  when Qays was but a young lad. The mother of Qays, fearing that he
  would sally forth to seek vengeance for the blood of his father and
  his grandfather and perish, went to a mound of dust beside the door
  of their dwelling and laid stones on it, and began to say to Qays,
  "This is the grave of thy father and thy grandfather;" and Qays
  never doubted but that it was so. He grew up strong in the arms, and
  one day he had a tussle with a youth of the Banú Ẓafar, who said
  to him: "By God, thou would'st do better to turn the strength of
  thine arms against the slayers of thy father and grandfather instead
  of putting it forth upon me." "And who are their slayers?" "Ask thy
  mother, she will tell thee." So Qays took his sword and set its hilt
  on the ground and its edge between his two breasts, and said to his
  mother: "Who killed my father and my grandfather?" "They died as
  people die, and these are their graves in the camping-ground." "By
  God, verily thou wilt tell me who slew them or I will bear with my
  whole weight upon this sword until it cleaves through my back." Then
  she told him, and Qays swore that he would never rest until he had
  slain their slayers. "O my son," said she, "Málik, who killed thy
  grandfather, is of the same folk as Khidásh b. Zuhayr, and thy
  father once bestowed a kindness on Khidásh, for which he is
  grateful. Go, then, to him and take counsel with him touching thine
  affair and ask him to help thee." So Qays set out immediately, and
  when he came to the garden where his water-camel was watering his
  date-palms, he smote the cord (of the bucket) with his sword and cut
  it, so that the bucket dropped into the well. Then he took hold of
  the camel's head, and loaded the beast with two sacks of dates, and
  said: "Who will care for this old woman" (meaning his mother) "in my
  absence? If I die, let him pay her expenses out of this garden, and
  on her death it shall be his own; but if I live, my property will
  return to me, and he shall have as many of its dates as he wishes to
  eat." One of his folk cried, "I am for it," so Qays gave him the
  garden and set forth to inquire concerning Khidásh. He was told to
  look for him at Marr al-Ẓahrán, but not finding him in his tent,
  he alighted beneath a tree, in the shade of which the guests of
  Khidásh used to shelter, and called to the wife of Khidásh, "Is
  there any food?" Now, when she came up to him, she admired his
  comeliness--for he was exceeding fair of countenance--and said: "By
  God, we have no fit entertainment for thee, but only dates." He
  replied, "I care not, bring out what thou hast." So she sent to him
  dates in a large measure (_qubá‘_), and Qays took a single date and
  ate half of it and put back the other half in the _qubá‘_, and gave
  orders that the _qubá‘_ should be brought in to the wife of Khidásh;
  then he departed on some business. When Khidásh returned and his
  wife told him the news of Qays, he said, "This is a man who would
  render his person sacred."[192] While he sat there with his wife
  eating fresh ripe dates, Qays returned on camel-back; and Khidásh,
  when he saw the foot of the approaching rider, said to his wife, "Is
  this thy guest?" "Yes." "'Tis as though his foot were the foot of my
  good friend, Khaṭím the Yathribite." Qays drew nigh, and struck
  the tent-rope with the point of his spear, and begged leave to come
  in. Having obtained permission, he entered to Khidásh and told his
  lineage and informed him of what had passed, and asked him to help
  and advise him in his affair. Khidásh bade him welcome, and recalled
  the kindness which he had of his father, and said, "As to this
  affair, truly I have been expecting it of thee for some time. The
  slayer of thy grandfather is a cousin of mine, and I will aid thee
  against him. When we are assembled in our meeting-place, I will sit
  beside him and talk with him, and when I strike his thigh, do thou
  spring on him and slay him." Qays himself relates: "Accompanied by
  Khidásh, I approached him until I stood over his head when Khidásh
  sat with him, and as soon as he struck the man's thigh I smote his
  head with a sword named _Dhu ’l-Khurṣayn_" (the Two-ringed). "His
  folk rushed on me to slay me, but Khidásh came between us, crying,
  'Let him alone, for, by God, he has slain none but the slayer of his
  grandfather.'" Then Khidásh called for one of his camels and mounted
  it, and started with Qays to find the ‘Abdite who killed his father.
  And when they were near Hajar Khidásh advised him to go and inquire
  after this man, and to say to him when he discovered him: "I
  encountered a brigand of thy people who robbed me of some articles,
  and on asking who was the chieftain of his people I was directed to
  thee. Go with me, then, that thou mayest take from him my property.
  If," Khidásh continued, "he follow thee unattended, thou wilt gain
  thy desire of him; but should he bid the others go with thee, laugh,
  and if he ask why thou laughest, say, 'With us, the noble does not
  as thou dost, but when he is called to a brigand of his people, he
  goes forth alone with his whip, not with his sword; and the brigand
  when he sees him gives him everything that he took, in awe of him.'
  If he shall dismiss his friends, thy course is clear; but if he
  shall refuse to go without them, bring him to me nevertheless, for I
  hope that thou wilt slay both him and them." So Khidásh stationed
  himself under the shade of a tree, while Qays went to the ‘Abdite
  and addressed him as Khidásh had prompted; and the man's sense of
  honour was touched to the quick, so that he sent away his friends
  and went with Qays. And when Qays came back to Khidásh, the latter
  said to him, "Choose, O Qays! Shall I help thee or shall I take thy
  place?" Qays answered, "I desire neither of these alternatives, but
  if he slay me, let him not slay thee!" Then he rushed upon him and
  wounded him in the flank and drove his lance through the other side,
  and he fell dead on the spot. When Qays had finished with him,
  Khidásh said, "If we flee just now, his folk will pursue us; but let
  us go somewhere not far off, for they will never think that thou
  hast slain him and stayed in the neighbourhood. No; they will miss
  him and follow his track, and when they find him slain they will
  start to pursue us in every direction, and will only return when
  they have lost hope." So those two entered some hollows of the sand,
  and after staying there several days (for it happened exactly as
  Khidásh had foretold), they came forth when the pursuit was over,
  and did not exchange a word until they reached the abode of Khidásh.
  There Qays parted from him and returned to his own people.

[Sidenote: Song of Vengeance by Ta’abbaṭa Sharran.]

The poems relating to blood-revenge show all that is best and much that
is less admirable in the heathen Arab--on the one hand, his courage and
resolution, his contempt of death and fear of dishonour, his
single-minded devotion to the dead as to the living, his deep regard and
tender affection for the men of his own flesh and blood; on the other
hand, his implacable temper, his perfidious cruelty and reckless
ferocity in hunting down the slayers, and his savage, well-nigh inhuman
exultation over the slain. The famous Song or Ballad of Vengeance that I
shall now attempt to render in English verse is usually attributed to
Ta’abbaṭa Sharran,[193] although some pronounce it to be a forgery by
Khalaf al-Aḥmar, the reputed author of Shanfará's masterpiece, and
beyond doubt a marvellously skilful imitator of the ancient bards. Be
that as it may, the ballad is utterly pagan in tone and feeling. Its
extraordinary merit was detected by Goethe, who, after reading it in a
Latin translation, published a German rendering, with some fine
criticism of the poetry, in his _West-oestlicher Divan_.[194] I have
endeavoured to suggest as far as possible the metre and rhythm of the
original, since to these, in my opinion, its peculiar effect is largely
due. The metre is that known as the 'Tall' (_Madíd_), viz.:--

   ⌣      |⌣    |
   - ⌣ - -|- ⌣ -|- ⌣ - -

Thus the first verse runs in Arabic:--

 _Inna bi’l-shi‘ | bi ’lladhi |‘inda Sal‘in
  la-qatílan | damuhú | má yuṭallu._

Of course, Arabic prosody differs radically from English, but _mutatis
mutandis_ several couplets in the following version (_e.g._ the third,
eighth, and ninth) will be found to correspond exactly with their model.
As has been said, however, my object was merely to suggest the abrupt
metre and the heavy, emphatic cadences, so that I have been able to give
variety to the verse, and at the same time to retain that artistic
freedom without which the translator of poetry cannot hope to satisfy
either himself or any one else.

The poet tells how he was summoned to avenge his uncle, slain by the
tribesmen of Hudhayl: he describes the dead man's heroic character, the
foray in which he fell, his former triumphs over the same enemy, and
finally the terrible vengeance taken for him.[195]

 "In the glen there a murdered man is lying--
  Not in vain for vengeance his blood is crying.
  He hath left me the load to bear and departed;
  I take up the load and bear it true-hearted.
  I, his sister's son, the bloodshed inherit,
  I whose knot none looses, stubborn of spirit;[196]
  Glowering darkly, shame's deadly out-wiper,
  Like the serpent spitting venom, the viper.
  Hard the tidings that befell us, heart-breaking;
  Little seemed thereby the anguish most aching.
  Fate hath robbed me--still is Fate fierce and froward--
  Of a hero whose friend ne'er called him coward:
  As the warm sun was he in wintry weather,
  'Neath the Dog-star shade and coolness together:
  Spare of flank--yet this in him showed not meanness;
  Open-handed, full of boldness and keenness:
  Firm of purpose, cavalier unaffrighted--
  Courage rode with him and with him alighted:
  In his bounty, a bursting cloud of rain-water;
  Lion grim when he leaped to the slaughter.
  Flowing hair, long robe his folk saw aforetime,
  But a lean-haunched wolf was he in war-time.
  Savours two he had, untasted by no men:
  Honey to his friends and gall to his foemen.
  Fear he rode nor recked what should betide him:
  Save his deep-notched Yemen blade, none beside him.

  Oh, the warriors girt with swords good for slashing,
  Like the levin, when they drew them, outflashing!
  Through the noonday heat they fared: then, benighted,
  Farther fared, till at dawning they alighted.[197]
  Breaths of sleep they sipped; and then, while they nodded,
  Thou didst scare them: lo, they scattered and scudded.
  Vengeance wreaked we upon them, unforgiving:
  Of the two clans scarce was left a soul living.[198]

  Ay, if _they_ bruised his glaive's edge 'twas in token
  That by him many a time their own was broken.
  Oft he made them kneel down by force and cunning--
  Kneel on jags where the foot is torn with running.
  Many a morn in shelter he took them napping;
  After killing was the rieving and rapine.

  They have gotten of me a roasting--I tire not
  Of desiring them till me they desire not.
  First, of foemen's blood my spear deeply drinketh,
  Then a second time, deep in, it sinketh.
  Lawful now to me is wine, long forbidden:
  Sore my struggle ere the ban was o'erridden.[199]
  Pour me wine, O son of ‘Amr! I would taste it,
  Since with grief for mine uncle I am wasted.
  O'er the fallen of Hudhayl stands screaming
  The hyena; see the wolf's teeth gleaming!
  Dawn will hear the flap of wings, will discover
  Vultures treading corpses, too gorged to hover."

[Sidenote: Honour conferred by noble ancestry.]

All the virtues which enter into the Arabian conception of Honour were
regarded not as personal qualities inherent or acquired, but as
hereditary possessions which a man derived from his ancestors, and held
in trust that he might transmit them untarnished to his descendants. It
is the desire to uphold and emulate the fame of his forbears, rather
than the hope of winning immortality for himself, that causes the Arab
"to say the say and do the deeds of the noble." Far from sharing the
sentiment of the Scots peasant--"a man's a man for a' that"--he looks
askance at merit and renown unconsecrated by tradition.

 "The glories that have grown up with the grass
  Can match not those inherited of old."[200]

Ancestral renown (_ḥasab_) is sometimes likened to a strong castle
built by sires for their sons, or to a lofty mountain which defies
attack.[201] The poets are full of boastings (_mafákhir_) and revilings
(_mathálib_) in which they loudly proclaim the nobility of their own
ancestors, and try to blacken those of their enemy without any regard to

It was my intention to add here some general remarks on Arabian poetry
as compared with that of the Hebrews, the Persians, and our own, but
since example is better than precept I will now turn directly to those
celebrated odes which are well known by the title of _Mu‘-allaqát_, or
'Suspended Poems,' to all who take the slightest interest in Arabic

[Sidenote: The Mu‘allaqát, or 'Suspended Poems.']

_Mu‘allaqa_ (plural, _Mu‘allaqát_) "is most likely derived from the word
_‘ilq_, meaning 'a precious thing or a thing held in high estimation,'
either because one 'hangs on' tenaciously to it, or because it is 'hung
up' in a place of honour, or in a conspicuous place, in a treasury or
storehouse."[203] In course of time the exact signification of
_Mu‘allaqa_ was forgotten, and it became necessary to find a plausible
explanation. Hence arose the legend, which frequent repetition has made
familiar, that the 'Suspended Poems' were so called from having been
hung up in the Ka‘ba on account of their merit; that this distinction
was awarded by the judges at the fair of ‘Ukáẓ, near Mecca, where
poets met in rivalry and recited their choicest productions; and that
the successful compositions, before being affixed to the door of the
Ka‘ba, were transcribed in letters of gold upon pieces of fine Egyptian
linen.[204] Were these statements true, we should expect them to be
confirmed by some allusion in the early literature. But as a matter of
fact nothing of the kind is mentioned in the Koran or in religious
tradition, in the ancient histories of Mecca, or in such works as the
_Kitábu ’l-Aghání_, which draw their information from old and
trustworthy sources.[205] Almost the first authority who refers to the
legend is the grammarian Aḥmad al-Naḥḥás († 949 A.D.), and
by him it is stigmatised as entirely groundless. Moreover, although it
was accepted by scholars like Reiske, Sir W. Jones, and even De Sacy, it
is incredible in itself. Hengstenberg, in the Prolegomena to his edition
of the _Mu‘-allaqa_ of Imru’u ’l-Qays (Bonn, 1823) asked some pertinent
questions: Who were the judges, and how were they appointed? Why were
only these seven poems thus distinguished? His further objection, that
the art of writing was at that time a rare accomplishment, does not
carry so much weight as he attached to it, but the story is sufficiently
refuted by what we know of the character and customs of the Arabs in the
sixth century and afterwards. Is it conceivable that the proud sons of
the desert could have submitted a matter so nearly touching their tribal
honour, of which they were jealous above all things, to external
arbitration, or meekly acquiesced in the partial verdict of a court
sitting in the neighbourhood of Mecca, which would certainly have shown
scant consideration for competitors belonging to distant clans?[206]

[Sidenote: Origin of the collection.]

However _Mu‘allaqa_ is to be explained, the name is not contemporary
with the poems themselves. In all probability they were so entitled by
the person who first chose them out of innumerable others and embodied
them in a separate collection. This is generally allowed to have been
Ḥammád al-Ráwiya, a famous rhapsodist who flourished in the latter
days of the Umayyad dynasty, and died about 772 A.D., in the reign of
the ‘Abbásid Caliph Mahdí. What principle guided Ḥammád in his choice
we do not know. Nöldeke conjectures that he was influenced by the fact
that all the _Mu‘allaqát_ are long poems--they are sometimes called 'The
Seven Long Poems' (_al-Sab‘ al-Ṭiwál_)--for in Ḥammád's time
little of the ancient Arabian poetry survived in a state even of
relative completeness.

[Sidenote: Difficulty of translating the Mu‘allaqát.]

It must be confessed that no rendering of the _Mu‘allaqát_ can furnish
European readers with a just idea of the originals, a literal version
least of all. They contain much that only a full commentary can make
intelligible, much that to modern taste is absolutely incongruous with
the poetic style. Their finest pictures of Bedouin life and manners
often appear uncouth or grotesque, because without an intimate knowledge
of the land and people it is impossible for us to see what the poet
intended to convey, or to appreciate the truth and beauty of its
expression; while the artificial framework, the narrow range of subject
as well as treatment, and the frank realism of the whole strike us at
once. In the following pages I shall give some account of the
_Mu‘allaqát_ and their authors, and endeavour to bring out the
characteristic qualities of each poem by selecting suitable passages for

[Sidenote: Imru’u ’l-Qays.]

The oldest and most famous of the _Mu‘allaqát_ is that of Imru’u
’l-Qays, who was descended from the ancient kings of Yemen. His
grandfather was King Ḥárith of Kinda, the antagonist of Mundhir III,
King of Ḥíra, by whom he was defeated and slain.[208] On Ḥárith's
death, the confederacy which he had built up split asunder, and his sons
divided among themselves the different tribes of which it was composed.
Ḥujr, the poet's father, ruled for some time over the Banú Asad in
Central Arabia, but finally they revolted and put him to death. "The
duty of avenging his murder fell upon Imru’u ’l-Qays, who is represented
as the only capable prince of his family; and the few historical data
which we have regarding him relate to his adventures while bent upon
this vengeance."[209] They are told at considerable length in the
_Kitábu ’l-Aghání_, but need not detain us here. Suffice it to say that
his efforts to punish the rebels, who were aided by Mundhir, the
hereditary foe of his house, met with little success. He then set out
for Constantinople, where he was favourably received by the Emperor
Justinian, who desired to see the power of Kinda re-established as a
thorn in the side of his Persian rivals. The emperor appointed him
Phylarch of Palestine, but on his way thither he died at Angora (about
540 A.D.). He is said to have perished, like Nessus, from putting on a
poisoned robe sent to him as a gift by Justinian, with whose daughter he
had an intrigue. Hence he is sometimes called 'The Man of the Ulcers'
(_Dhu ’l-Qurúḥ_).

Many fabulous traditions surround the romantic figure of Imru’u
’l-Qays.[210] According to one story, he was banished by his father, who
despised him for being a poet and was enraged by the scandals to which
his love adventures gave rise. Imru’u ’l-Qays left his home and wandered
from tribe to tribe with a company of outcasts like himself, leading a
wild life, which caused him to be known as 'The Vagabond Prince'
(_al-Malik al-Ḑillíl_). When the news of his father's death reached
him he cried, "My father wasted my youth, and now that I am old he has
laid upon me the burden of blood-revenge. Wine to-day, business
to-morrow!" Seven nights he continued the carouse; then he swore not to
eat flesh, nor drink wine, nor use ointment, nor touch woman, nor wash
his head until his vengeance was accomplished. In the valley of Tabála,
north of Najrán, there was an idol called Dhu ’l-Khalaṣa much
reverenced by the heathen Arabs. Imru’u ’l-Qays visited this oracle and
consulted it in the ordinary way, by drawing one of three arrows
entitled 'the Commanding,' 'the Forbidding,' and 'the Waiting.' He drew
the second, whereupon he broke the arrows and dashed them on the face of
the idol, exclaiming with a gross imprecation, "If _thy_ father had been
slain, thou would'st not have hindered me!"

Imru’u ’l-Qays is almost universally reckoned the greatest of the
Pre-islamic poets. Muḥammad described him as 'their leader to
Hell-fire,' while the Caliphs ‘Umar and ‘Alí, _odium theologicum_
notwithstanding, extolled his genius and originality.[211] Coming to the
_Mu‘allaqa_ itself, European critics have vied with each other in
praising its exquisite diction and splendid images, the sweet flow of
the verse, the charm and variety of the painting, and, above all, the
feeling by which it is inspired of the joy and glory of youth. The
passage translated below is taken from the first half of the poem, in
which love is the prevailing theme:--[212]

 "Once, on the hill, she mocked at me and swore,
 'This hour I leave thee to return no more,'
  Soft! if farewell is planted in thy mind,
  Yet spare me, Fáṭima, disdain unkind.
  Because my passion slays me, wilt thou part?
  Because thy wish is law unto mine heart?
  Nay, if thou so mislikest aught in me,
  Shake loose my robe and let it fall down free.
  But ah, the deadly pair, thy streaming eyes!
  They pierce a heart that all in ruin lies.

  How many a noble tent hath oped its treasure
  To me, and I have ta'en my fill of pleasure,
  Passing the warders who with eager speed
  Had slain me, if they might but hush the deed,
  What time in heaven the Pleiades unfold
  A belt of orient gems distinct with gold.
  I entered. By the curtain there stood she,
  Clad lightly as for sleep, and looked on me.
  'By God,' she cried, 'what recks thee of the cost?
  I see thine ancient madness is not lost.'
  I led her forth--she trailing as we go
  Her broidered skirt, lest any footprint show--
  Until beyond the tents the valley sank
  With curving dunes and many a pilèd bank,
  Then with both hands I drew her head to mine,
  And lovingly the damsel did incline
  Her slender waist and legs more plump than fine;--
  A graceful figure, a complexion bright,
  A bosom like a mirror in the light;
  A white pale virgin pearl such lustre keeps,
  Fed with clear water in untrodden deeps.
  Now she bends half away: two cheeks appear,
  And such an eye as marks the frighted deer
  Beside her fawn; and lo, the shapely neck
  Not bare of ornament, else without a fleck;
  While from her shoulders in profusion fair,
  Like clusters on the palm, hangs down her coal-dark hair."

In strange contrast with this tender and delicate idyll are the wild,
hard verses almost immediately following, in which the poet roaming
through the barren waste hears the howl of a starved wolf and hails him
as a comrade:--

 "Each one of us what thing he finds devours:
  Lean is the wretch whose living is like ours."[213]

The noble qualities of his horse and its prowess in the chase are
described, and the poem ends with a magnificent picture of a
thunder-storm among the hills of Najd.

[Sidenote: Ṭarafa.]

Ṭarafa b. al-‘Abd was a member of the great tribe of Bakr. The
particular clan to which he belonged was settled in Baḥrayn on the
Persian Gulf. He early developed a talent for satire, which he exercised
upon friend and foe indifferently; and after he had squandered his
patrimony in dissolute pleasures, his family chased him away as though
he were 'a mangy camel.' At length a reconciliation was effected. He
promised to mend his ways, returned to his people, and took part, it is
said, in the War of Basús. In a little while his means were dissipated
once more and he was reduced to tend his brother's herds. His
_Mu‘allaqa_ composed at this time won for him the favour of a rich
kinsman and restored him to temporary independence. On the conclusion of
peace between Bakr and Taghlib the youthful poet turned his eyes in the
direction of Ḥíra, where ‘Amr b. Hind had lately succeeded to the
throne (554 A.D.). He was well received by the king, who attached him,
along with his uncle, the poet Mutalammis, to the service of the
heir-apparent. But Ṭarafa's bitter tongue was destined to cost him
dear. Fatigued and disgusted by the rigid ceremony of the court, he
improvised a satire in which he said--

 "Would that we had instead of ‘Amr
  A milch-ewe bleating round our tent!"

Shortly afterwards he happened to be seated at table opposite the king's
sister. Struck with her beauty, he exclaimed--

 "Behold, she has come back to me,
    My fair gazelle whose ear-rings shine;
  Had not the king been sitting here,
    I would have pressed her lips to mine!"

‘Amr b. Hind was a man of violent and implacable temper. Ṭarafa's
satire had already been reported to him, and this new impertinence added
fuel to his wrath. Sending for Ṭarafa and Mutalammis, he granted them
leave to visit their homes, and gave to each of them a sealed letter
addressed to the governor of Baḥrayn. When they had passed outside
the city the suspicions of Mutalammis were aroused. As neither he nor
his companion could read, he handed his own letter to a boy of
Ḥíra[214] and learned that it contained orders to bury him alive.
Thereupon he flung the treacherous missive into the stream and implored
Ṭarafa to do likewise. Ṭarafa refused to break the royal seal. He
continued his journey to Baḥrayn, where he was thrown into prison and

Thus perished miserably in the flower of his youth--according to some
accounts he was not yet twenty--the passionate and eloquent Ṭarafa.
In his _Mu‘allaqa_ he has drawn a spirited portrait of himself. The most
striking feature of the poem, apart from a long and, to us who are not
Bedouins, painfully tedious description of the camel, is its insistence
on sensual enjoyment as the sole business of life:--

 "Canst thou make me immortal, O thou that blamest me so
  For haunting the battle and loving the pleasures that fly?
  If thou hast not the power to ward me from Death, let me go
  To meet him and scatter the wealth in my hand, ere I die.

  Save only for three things in which noble youth take delight,
  I care not how soon rises o'er me the coronach loud:
  Wine that foams when the water is poured on it, ruddy, not bright.
  Dark wine that I quaff stol'n away from the cavilling crowd;

  "And second, my charge at the cry of distress on a steed
  Bow-legged like the wolf you have startled when thirsty he cowers;
  And third, the day-long with a lass in her tent of goat's hair
  To hear the wild rain and beguile of their slowness the hours."[215]

Keeping, as far as possible, the chronological order, we have now to
mention two _Mu‘allaqas_ which, though not directly related to each
other,[216] are of the same period--the reign of ‘Amr b. Hind, King of
Ḥíra (554-568 A.D.). Moreover, their strong mutual resemblance and their
difference from the other _Mu‘allaqas_, especially from typical
_qaṣídas_ like those of ‘Antara and Labíd, is a further reason for
linking them together. Their distinguishing mark is the abnormal space
devoted to the main subject, which leaves little room for the
subsidiary motives.

[Sidenote: ‘Amr b. Kulthúm.]

‘Amr b. Kulthúm belonged to the tribe of Taghlib. His mother was Laylá,
a daughter of the famous poet and warrior Muhalhil. That she was a woman
of heroic mould appears from the following anecdote, which records a
deed of prompt vengeance on the part of ‘Amr that gave rise to the
proverb, "Bolder in onset than ‘Amr b. Kulthúm"[217]:--

  [Sidenote: How ’Amr avenged an insult to his mother.]

  One day ‘Amr. b. Hind, the King of Ḥíra, said to his
  boon-companions, "Do ye know any Arab whose mother would disdain to
  serve mine?" They answered, "Yes, the mother of ‘Amr b. Kulthúm."
  "Why so?" asked the king. "Because," said they, "her father is
  Muhalhil b. Rabí‘a and her uncle is Kulayb b. Wá’il, the most
  puissant of the Arabs, and her husband is Kulthúm b. Málik, the
  knightliest, and her son is ‘Amr, the chieftain of his tribe." Then
  the king sent to ‘Amr b. Kulthúm, inviting him to pay a visit to
  himself, and asking him to bring his mother, Laylá, to visit his own
  mother, Hind. So ‘Amr came to Ḥíra with some men of Taghlib, and
  Laylá came attended by a number of their women; and while the king
  entertained ‘Amr and his friends in a pavilion which he had caused
  to be erected between Ḥíra and the Euphrates, Laylá found
  quarters with Hind in a tent adjoining. Now, the king had ordered
  his mother, as soon as he should call for dessert, to dismiss the
  servants, and cause Laylá to wait upon her. At the pre-arranged
  signal she desired to be left alone with her guest, and said, "O
  Laylá, hand me that dish." Laylá answered, "Let those who want
  anything rise up and serve themselves." Hind repeated her demand,
  and would take no denial. "O shame!" cried Laylá. "Help! Taghlib,
  help!" When ‘Amr heard his mother's cry the blood flew to his
  cheeks. He seized a sword hanging on the wall of the pavilion--the
  only weapon there--and with a single blow smote the king dead.[218]

‘Amr's _Mu‘allaqa_ is the work of a man who united in himself the ideal
qualities of manhood as these were understood by a race which has never
failed to value, even too highly, the display of self-reliant action and
decisive energy. And if in ‘Amr's poem these virtues are displayed with
an exaggerated boastfulness which offends our sense of decency and
proper reserve, it would be a grave error to conclude that all this
sound and fury signifies nothing. The Bedouin poet deems it his bounden
duty to glorify to the utmost himself, his family, and his tribe; the
Bedouin warrior is never tired of proclaiming his unshakable valour and
recounting his brilliant feats of arms: he hurls menaces and vaunts in
the same breath, but it does not follow that he is a _Miles Gloriosus_.
‘Amr certainly was not: his _Mu‘allaqa_ leaves a vivid impression of
conscious and exultant strength. The first eight verses seem to have
been added to the poem at a very early date, for out of them arose the
legend that ‘Amr drank himself to death with unmixed wine. It is likely
that they were included in the original collection of the _Mu‘allaqát_,
and they are worth translating for their own sake:---

 "Up, maiden! Fetch the morning-drink and spare not
          The wine of Andarín,
  Clear wine that takes a saffron hue when water
          Is mingled warm therein.
  The lover tasting it forgets his passion,
          His heart is eased of pain;
  The stingy miser, as he lifts the goblet,
          Regardeth not his gain.

  Pass round from left to right! Why let'st thou, maiden,
          Me and my comrades thirst?
  Yet am I, whom thou wilt not serve this morning,
          Of us three not the worst!
  Many a cup in Baalbec and Damascus
          And Qáṣirín I drained,
  Howbeit we, ordained to death, shall one day
          Meet death, to us ordained."[219]

In the next passage he describes his grief at the departure of his
beloved, whom he sees in imagination arriving at her journey's end in
distant Yamáma:--

 "And oh, my love and yearning when at nightfall
          I saw her camels haste,
  Until sharp peaks uptowered like serried sword-blades,
          And me Yamáma faced!
  Such grief no mother-camel feels, bemoaning
          Her young one lost, nor she,
  The grey-haired woman whose hard fate hath left her
          Of nine sons graves thrice three."[220]

Now the poet turns abruptly to his main theme. He addresses the King of
Ḥíra, ‘Amr b. Hind, in terms of defiance, and warns the foes of
Taghlib that they will meet more than their match:--

 "Father of Hind,[221] take heed and ere thou movest
          Rashly against us, learn
  That still our banners go down white to battle
          And home blood-red return.
  And many a chief bediademed, the champion
          Of the outlaws of the land,
  Have we o'erthrown and stripped him, while around him
          Fast-reined the horses stand.
  Our neighbours lopped like thorn-trees, snarls in terror
          Of us the demon-hound;[222]
  Never we try our hand-mill on the foemen
          But surely they are ground.
  We are the heirs of glory, all Ma‘add knows,[223]
          Our lances it defend,
  And when the tent-pole tumbles in the foray,
          Trust us to save our friend![224]

  O ‘Amr, what mean'st thou? Are we, we of Taghlib,
          Thy princeling's retinue?
  O ‘Amr, what mean'st thou, rating us and hearkening
          To tale-bearers untrue?
  O ‘Amr, ere thee full many a time our spear-shaft
          Has baffled foes to bow;[225]
  Nipped in the vice it kicks like a wild camel
          That will no touch allow--
  Like a wild camel, so it creaks in bending
          And splits the bender's brow!"[226]

The _Mu‘allaqa_ ends with a eulogy, superb in its extravagance, of the
poet's tribe:--

 "Well wot, when our tents rise along their valleys,
          The men of every clan
  That we give death to them that durst attempt us,
          To friends what food we can;
  That staunchly we maintain a cause we cherish,
          Camp where we choose to ride,
  Nor will we aught of peace, when we are angered,
          Till we be satisfied.
  We keep our vassals safe and sound, but rebels
          We soon force to their knees;
  And if we reach a well, we drink pure water,
          Others the muddy lees.
  Ours is the earth and all thereon: when _we_ strike,
          There needs no second blow;
  Kings lay before the new-weaned boy of Taghlib
          Their heads in homage low.
  We are called oppressors, being none, but shortly
          A true name shall it be![227]
  We have so filled the earth 'tis narrow for us,
          And with our ships the sea![228]

[Sidenote: Ḥárith b. Ḥilliza.]

Less interesting is the _Mu‘allaqa_ of Ḥárith b. Ḥilliza of Bakr.
Its inclusion among the _Mu‘allaqát_ is probably due, as Nöldeke
suggested, to the fact that Ḥammád, himself a client of Bakr, wished
to flatter his patrons by selecting a counterpart to the _Mu‘allaqa_ of
‘Amr b. Kulthúm, which immortalised their great rivals, the Banú
Taghlib. Ḥárith's poem, however, has some historical importance, as
it throws light on feuds in Northern Arabia connected with the
antagonism of the Roman and Persian Empires. Its purpose is to complain
of unjust accusations made against the Banú Bakr by a certain group of
the Banú Taghlib known as the Aráqim:--

 "Our brothers the Aráqim let their tongues
          Against us rail unmeasuredly.
  The innocent with the guilty they confound:
          Of guilt what boots it to be free?
  They brand us patrons of the vilest deed,
          Our clients in each miscreant see."[229]

A person whom Ḥárith does not name was 'blackening' the Banú Bakr
before the King of Ḥíra. The poet tells him not to imagine that his
calumnies will have any lasting effect: often had Bakr been slandered by
their foes, but (he finely adds):--

 "Maugre their hate we stand, by firm-based might
          Exalted and by ancestry--
  Might which ere now hath dazzled men's eyes: thence scorn
          To yield and haughty spirit have we.
  On us the Days beat as on mountain dark
          That soars in cloudless majesty,
  Compact against the hard calamitous shocks
          And buffetings of Destiny."[230]

He appeals to the offenders not wantonly to break the peace which
ended the War of Basús:--

 "Leave folly and error! If ye blind yourselves,
          Just therein lies the malady.
  Recall the oaths of Dhu ’l-Majáz[231] for which
          Hostages gave security,
  Lest force or guile should break them: can caprice
          Annul the parchments utterly?[232]

[Sidenote: ‘Antara.]

‘Antara b. Shaddád, whose father belonged to the tribe of ‘Abs,
distinguished himself in the War of Dáḥis.[233] In modern times it is
not as a poet that he is chiefly remembered, but as a hero of
romance--the Bedouin Achilles. Goddess-born, however, he could not be
called by any stretch of imagination. His mother was a black slave, and
he must often have been taunted with his African blood, which showed
itself in a fiery courage that gained the respect of the pure-bred but
generally less valorous Arabs. ‘Antara loved his cousin ‘Abla, and
following the Arabian custom by which cousins have the first right to a
girl's hand, he asked her in marriage. His suit was vain--the son of a
slave mother being regarded as a slave unless acknowledged by his
father--until on one occasion, while the ‘Absites were hotly engaged
with some raiders who had driven off their camels, ‘Antara refused to
join in the mêlée, saying, "A slave does not understand how to fight;
his work is to milk the camels and bind their udders." "Charge!" cried
his father, "thou art free." Though ‘Antara uttered no idle boast when
he sang--

 "On one side nobly born and of the best
  Of ‘Abs am I: my sword makes good the rest!"

his contemptuous references to 'jabbering barbarians,' and to 'slaves
with their ears cut off, clad in sheepskins,' are characteristic of the
man who had risen to eminence in spite of the stain on his scutcheon. He
died at a great age in a foray against the neighbouring tribe of
Ṭayyi’. His _Mu‘allaqa_ is famous for its stirring battle-scenes, one
of which is translated here:--[234]

 "Learn, Málik's daughter, how
    I rush into the fray,
  And how I draw back only
    At sharing of the prey.

  I never quit the saddle,
    My strong steed nimbly bounds;
  Warrior after warrior
    Have covered him with wounds.

  Full-armed against me stood
    One feared of fighting men:
  He fled not oversoon
    Nor let himself be ta'en.

  With straight hard-shafted spear
    I dealt him in his side
  A sudden thrust which opened
    Two streaming gashes wide,

  Two gashes whence outgurgled
    His life-blood: at the sound
  Night-roaming ravenous wolves
    Flock eagerly around.

  So with my doughty spear
    I trussed his coat of mail--
  For truly, when the spear strikes,
    The noblest man is frail--

  And left him low to banquet
    The wild beasts gathering there;
  They have torn off his fingers,
    His wrist and fingers fair!"

[Sidenote: Zuhayr.]

While ‘Antara's poem belongs to the final stages of the War of Dáḥis,
the _Mu‘allaqa_ of his contemporary, Zuhayr b. Abí Sulmá, of the tribe
of Muzayna, celebrates an act of private munificence which brought about
the conclusion of peace. By the self-sacrificing intervention of two
chiefs of Dhubyán, Harim b. Sinán and Ḥárith b. ‘Awf, the whole sum
of blood-money to which the ‘Absites were entitled on account of the
greater number of those who had fallen on their side, was paid over to
them. Such an example of generous and disinterested patriotism--for
Harim and Ḥárith had shed no blood themselves--was a fit subject for
one of whom it was said that he never praised men but as they

  Noble pair of Ghayẓ ibn Murra,[235] well ye laboured to restore
  Ties of kindred hewn asunder by the bloody strokes of war.
  Witness now mine oath the ancient House in Mecca's hallowed bound,[236]
  Which its builders of Quraysh and Jurhum solemnly went round,[237]
  That in hard or easy issue never wanting were ye found!
  Peace ye gave to ‘Abs and Dhubyán when each fell by other's hand
  And the evil fumes they pestled up between them filled the land."[238]

At the end of his panegyric the poet, turning to the lately reconciled
tribesmen and their confederates, earnestly warns them against nursing
thoughts of vengeance:--

  "Will ye hide from God the guilt ye dare not unto Him disclose?
  Verily, what thing soever ye would hide from God, He knows.
  Either it is laid up meantime in a scroll and treasured there
  For the day of retribution, or avenged all unaware.[239]
  War ye have known and war have tasted: not by hearsay are ye wise.
  Raise no more the hideous monster! If ye let her raven, she cries
  Ravenously for blood and crushes, like a mill-stone, all below,
  And from her twin-conceiving womb she brings forth woe on woe."[240]

After a somewhat obscure passage concerning the lawless deeds of a
certain Ḥusayn b. Ḑamḍam, which had well-nigh caused a fresh
outbreak of hostilities, Zuhayr proceeds, with a natural and touching
allusion to his venerable age, to enforce the lessons of conduct and
morality suggested by the situation:--

 "I am weary of life's burden: well a man may weary be
  After eighty years, and this much now is manifest to me:
  Death is like a night-blind camel stumbling on:--the smitten die
  But the others age and wax in weakness whom he passes by.
  He that often deals with folk in unkind fashion, underneath
  They will trample him and make him feel the sharpness of their teeth.
  He that hath enough and over and is niggard with his pelf
  Will be hated of his people and left free to praise himself.
  He alone who with fair actions ever fortifies his fame
  Wins it fully: blame will find him out unless he shrinks from blame.
  He that for his cistern's guarding trusts not in his own stout arm
  Sees it ruined: he must harm his foe or he must suffer harm.
  He that fears the bridge of Death across it finally is driven,
  Though he span as with a ladder all the space 'twixt earth and heaven.
  He that will not take the lance's butt-end while he has the chance
  Must thereafter be contented with the spike-end of the lance.
  He that keeps his word is blamed not; he whose heart repaireth straight
  To the sanctuary of duty never needs to hesitate.
  He that hies abroad to strangers doth account his friends his foes;
  He that honours not himself lacks honour wheresoe'er he goes.
  Be a man's true nature what it will, that nature is revealed
  To his neighbours, let him fancy as he may that 'tis concealed."[241]

The ripe sententious wisdom and moral earnestness of Zuhayr's poetry are
in keeping with what has been said above concerning his religious ideas
and, from another point of view, with the tradition that he used to
compose a _qaṣída_ in four months, correct it for four months, submit
it to the poets of his acquaintance during a like period, and not make
it public until a year had expired.

Of his life there is little to tell. Probably he died before Islam,
though it is related that when he was a centenarian he met the Prophet,
who cried out on seeing him, "O God, preserve me from his demon!"[242]
The poetical gifts which he inherited from his uncle Basháma he
bequeathed to his son Ka‘b, author of the famous ode, _Bánat Su‘ád_.

[Sidenote: Labíd.]

Labíd b. Rabí‘a, of the Banú ‘Ámir b. Ṣa‘ṣa‘a, was born in the
latter half of the sixth century, and is said to have died soon after
Mu‘áwiya's accession to the Caliphate, which took place in A.D. 661. He
is thus the youngest of the Seven Poets. On accepting Islam he abjured
poetry, saying, "God has given me the Koran in exchange for it." Like
Zuhayr, he had, even in his heathen days, a strong vein of religious
feeling, as is shown by many passages in his Díwán.

Labíd was a true Bedouin, and his _Mu‘allaqa_, with its charmingly fresh
pictures of desert life and scenery, must be considered one of the
finest examples of the Pre-islamic _qaṣída_ that have come down to
us. The poet owes something to his predecessors, but the greater part
seems to be drawn from his own observation. He begins in the
conventional manner by describing the almost unrecognisable vestiges of
the camping-ground of the clan to which his mistress belonged:--

 "Waste lies the land where once alighted and did wone
  The people of Miná: Rijám and Ghawl are lone.
  The camp in Rayyán's vale is marked by relics dim
  Like weather-beaten script engraved on ancient stone.
  Over this ruined scene, since it was desolate,
  Whole years with secular and sacred months had flown.
  In spring 'twas blest by showers 'neath starry influence shed,
  And thunder-clouds bestowed a scant or copious boon.
  Pale herbs had shot up, ostriches on either slope
  Their chicks had gotten and gazelles their young had thrown;
  And large-eyed wild-cows there beside the new-born calves
  Reclined, while round them formed a troop the calves half-grown.
  Torrents of rain had swept the dusty ruins bare,
  Until, as writing freshly charactered, they shone,
  Or like to curved tattoo-lines on a woman's arm,
  With soot besprinkled so that every line is shown.
  I stopped and asked, but what avails it that we ask
  Dumb changeless things that speak a language all unknown?"[243]

After lamenting the departure of his beloved the poet bids himself think
no more about her: he will ride swiftly away from the spot. Naturally,
he must praise his camel, and he introduces by way of comparison two
wonderful pictures of animal life. In the former the onager is described
racing at full speed over the backs of the hills when thirst and hunger
drive him with his mate far from the barren solitudes into which they
usually retire. The second paints a wild-cow, whose young calf has been
devoured by wolves, sleeping among the sand-dunes through a night of
incessant rain. At daybreak "her feet glide over the firm wet soil." For
a whole week she runs to and fro, anxiously seeking her calf, when
suddenly she hears the sound of hunters approaching and makes off in
alarm. Being unable to get within bowshot, the hunters loose their dogs,
but she turns desperately upon them, wounding one with her needle-like
horn and killing another.

Then, once more addressing his beloved, the poet speaks complacently of
his share in the feasting and revelling, on which a noble Arab plumes
himself hardly less than on his bravery:--

 "Know'st thou not, O Nawár, that I am wont to tie
  The cords of love, yet also snap them without fear?
  That I abandon places when I like them not,
  Unless Death chain the soul and straiten her career?
  Nay, surely, but thou know'st not I have passed in talk
  Many a cool night of pleasure and convivial cheer,
  And often to a booth, above which hung for sign
  A banner, have resorted when old wine was dear.
  For no light price I purchased many a dusky skin
  Or black clay jar, and broached it that the juice ran clear;
  And many a song of shrill-voiced singing-girl I paid,
  And her whose fingers made sweet music to mine ear."[244]

Continuing, he boasts of dangerous service as a spy in the enemy's
country, when he watched all day on the top of a steep crag; of his
fearless demeanour and dignified assertion of his rights in an assembly
at Ḥíra, to which he came as a delegate, and of his liberality to the
poor. The closing verses are devoted, in accordance with custom, to
matters of immediate interest and to a panegyric on the virtues of the
poet's kin.

Besides the authors of the _Mu‘allaqát_ three poets may be mentioned, of
whom the two first-named are universally acknowledged to rank with the
greatest that Arabia has produced--Nábigha, A‘shá, and ‘Alqama.

[Sidenote: Nábigha of Dhubyán.]

Nábigha[245]--his proper name is Ziyád b. Mu‘áwiya, of the tribe
Dhubyán--lived at the courts of Ghassán and Ḥíra during the latter
half of the century before Islam. His chief patron was King Nu‘mán b.
Mundhir Abú Qábús of Ḥíra. For many years he basked in the sunshine
of royal favour, enjoying every privilege that Nu‘mán bestowed on his
most intimate friends. The occasion of their falling out is differently
related. According to one story, the poet described the charms of Queen
Mutajarrida, which Nu‘mán had asked him to celebrate, with such charm
and liveliness as to excite her husband's suspicion; but it is said--and
Nábigha's own words make it probable--that his enemies denounced him as
the author of a scurrilous satire against Nu‘mán which had been forged
by themselves. At any rate he had no choice but to quit Ḥíra with all
speed, and ere long we find him in Ghassán, welcomed and honoured, as
the panegyrist of King ‘Amr b. Ḥárith and the noble house of Jafna.
But his heart was in Ḥíra still. Deeply wounded by the calumnies of
which he was the victim, he never ceased to affirm his innocence and to
lament the misery of exile. The following poem, which he addressed to
Nu‘mán, is at once a justification and an appeal for mercy[246]:--

  "They brought me word, O King, thou blamedst me;
  For this am I o'erwhelmed with grief and care.
  I passed a sick man's night: the nurses seemed,
  Spreading my couch, to have heaped up briars there.
  Now (lest thou cherish in thy mind a doubt)
  Invoking our last refuge, God, I swear
  That he, whoever told thee I was false,
  Is the more lying and faithless of the pair.
  Exiled perforce, I found a strip of land
  Where I could live and safely take the air:
  Kings made me arbiter of their possessions,
  And called me to their side and spoke me fair--
  Even as thou dost grace thy favourites
  Nor deem'st a fault the gratitude they bear.[247]
  O leave thine anger! Else, in view of men
  A mangy camel, smeared with pitch, I were.
  Seest thou not God hath given thee eminence
  Before which monarchs tremble and despair?
  All other kings are stars and thou a sun:
  When the sun rises, lo, the heavens are bare!
  A friend in trouble thou wilt not forsake;
  I may have sinned: in sinning all men share.
  If I am wronged, thou hast but wronged a slave,
  And if thou spar'st, 'tis like thyself to spare."

It is pleasant to record that Nábigha was finally reconciled to the
prince whom he loved, and that Ḥíra again became his home. The date
of his death is unknown, but it certainly took place before Islam was
promulgated. Had the opportunity been granted to him he might have died
a Moslem: he calls himself 'a religious man' (_dhú ummatin_),[248] and
although the tradition that he was actually a Christian lacks authority,
his long residence in Syria and ‘Iráq must have made him acquainted with
the externals of Christianity and with some, at least, of its leading

[Sidenote: A‘shá.]

The grave and earnest tone characteristic of Nábigha's poetry seldom
prevails in that of his younger contemporary, Maymún b. Qays, who is
generally known by his surname, al-A‘shá--that is, 'the man of weak
sight.' A professional troubadour, he roamed from one end of Arabia to
the other, harp in hand, singing the praises of those who rewarded him;
and such was his fame as a satirist that few ventured to withhold the
bounty which he asked. By common consent he stands in the very first
rank of Arabian poets. Abu ’l-Faraj, the author of the _Kitábu
’l-Aghání_, declares him to be superior to all the rest, adding,
however, "this opinion is not held unanimously as regards A‘shá or any
other." His wandering life brought him into contact with every kind of
culture then existing in Arabia. Although he was not an avowed
Christian, his poetry shows to what an extent he was influenced by the
Bishops of Najrán, with whom he was intimately connected, and by the
Christian merchants of Ḥíra who sold him their wine. He did not rise
above the pagan level of morality.

  It is related that he set out to visit Muḥammad for the purpose
  of reciting to him an ode which he had composed in his honour. When
  the Quraysh heard of this, they feared lest their adversary's
  reputation should be increased by the panegyric of a bard so famous
  and popular. Accordingly, they intercepted him on his way, and asked
  whither he was bound. "To your kinsman," said he, "that I may accept
  Islam." "He will forbid and make unlawful to thee certain practices
  of which thou art fond." "What are these?" said A‘shá.
  "Fornication," said Abú Sufyán, "I have not abandoned it," he
  replied, "but it has abandoned me. What else?" "Gambling." "Perhaps
  I shall obtain from him something to compensate me for the loss of
  gambling. What else?" "Usury." "I have never borrowed nor lent. What
  else?" "Wine." "Oh, in that case I will drink the water I have left
  stored at al-Mihrás." Seeing that A‘shá was not to be deterred, Abú
  Sufyán offered him a hundred camels on condition that he should
  return to his home in Yamáma and await the issue of the struggle
  between Muḥammad and the Quraysh. "I agree," said A‘shá. "O ye
  Quraysh," cried Abú Sufyán, "this is A‘shá, and by God, if he
  becomes a follower of Muḥammad, he will inflame the Arabs against
  you by his poetry. Collect, therefore, a hundred camels for

A‘shá excels in the description of wine and wine-parties. One who
visited Manfúḥa in Yamáma, where the poet was buried, relates that
revellers used to meet at his grave and pour out beside it the last
drops that remained in their cups. As an example of his style in this
_genre_ I translate a few lines from the most celebrated of his poems,
which is included by some critics among the _Mu‘allaqát_:--

 "Many a time I hastened early to the tavern--while there ran
  At my heels a ready cook, a nimble, active serving-man--
  'Midst a gallant troop, like Indian scimitars, of mettle high;
  Well they know that every mortal, shod and bare alike, must die.
  Propped at ease I greet them gaily, them with myrtle-boughs I greet,
  Pass among them wine that gushes from the jar's mouth bittersweet.
  Emptying goblet after goblet--but the source may no man drain--
  Never cease they from carousing save to cry, 'Fill up again!'
  Briskly runs the page to serve them: on his ears hang pearls: below,
  Tight the girdle draws his doublet as he bustles to and fro.
  'Twas the harp, thou mightest fancy, waked the lute's responsive note,
  When the loose-robed chantress touched it and sang shrill with
    quavering throat.
  Here and there among the party damsels fair superbly glide:
  Each her long white skirt lets trail and swings a wine-skin at her

[Sidenote: ‘Alqama.]

Very little is known of the life of ‘Alqama b. ‘Abada, who was surnamed
_al-Faḥl_ (the Stallion). His most famous poem is that which he
addressed to the Ghassánid Ḥárith al-A‘raj after the Battle of
Ḥalíma, imploring him to set free some prisoners of Tamím--the poet's
tribe--among whom was his own brother or nephew, Shás. The following
lines have almost become proverbial:--

  "Of women do ye ask me? I can spy
  Their ailments with a shrewd physician's eye.
  The man whose head is grey or small his herds
  No favour wins of them but mocking words.
  Are riches known, to riches they aspire,
  And youthful bloom is still their heart's desire."[251]

[Sidenote: Elegiac poetry.]

In view of these slighting verses it is proper to observe that the
poetry of Arabian women of the Pre-islamic period is distinctly
masculine in character. Their songs are seldom of Love, but often of
Death. Elegy (_rithá_ or _marthiya_) was regarded as their special
province. The oldest form of elegy appears in the verses chanted on the
death of Ta’abbaṭa Sharran by his sister:--

 "O the good knight ye left low at Rakhmán,
  Thábit son of Jábir son of Sufyán!
  He filled the cup for friends and ever slew his man."[252]

"As a rule the Arabian dirge is very simple. The poetess begins with a
description of her grief, of the tears that she cannot quench, and then
she shows how worthy to be deeply mourned was he whom death has taken
away. He is described as a pattern of the two principal Arabian virtues,
bravery and liberality, and the question is anxiously asked, 'Who will
now make high resolves, overthrow the enemy, and in time of want feed
the poor and entertain the stranger?' If the hero of the dirge died a
violent death we find in addition a burning lust of revenge, a thirst
for the slayer's blood, expressed with an intensity of feeling of which
only women are capable."[253]

[Sidenote: Khansá.]

Among Arabian women who have excelled in poetry the place of honour is
due to Khansá--her real name was Tumáḍir--who flourished in the last
years before Islam. By far the most famous of her elegies are those in
which she bewailed her valiant brothers, Mu‘áwiya and Ṣakhr, both of
whom were struck down by sword or spear. It is impossible to translate
the poignant and vivid emotion, the energy of passion and noble
simplicity of style which distinguish the poetry of Khansá, but here are
a few verses:--

  Death's messenger cried aloud the loss of the generous one,
  So loud cried he, by my life, that far he was heard and wide.
  Then rose I, and scarce my soul could follow to meet the news,
  For anguish and sore dismay and horror that Ṣakhr had died.
  In my misery and despair I seemed as a drunken man,
  Upstanding awhile--then soon his tottering limbs subside."[254]

 _Yudhakkiruní ṭulú‘u ’l-shamsi Ṣakhran
  wa-adhkuruhú likulli ghurúbi shamsi._

 "Sunrise awakes in me the sad remembrance
  Of Ṣakhr, and I recall him at every sunset."

[Sidenote: The last poets born in the Age of Paganism.]

To the poets who have been enumerated many might be added--_e.g._,
Ḥassán b. Thábit, who was 'retained' by the Prophet and did useful
work on his behalf; Ka‘b b. Zuhayr, author or the famous panegyric on
Muḥammad beginning "_Bánat Su‘ád_" (Su‘ád has departed); Mutammim b.
Nuwayra, who, like Khansá, mourned the loss of a brother; Abú Miḥjan,
the singer of wine, whose devotion to the forbidden beverage was
punished by the Caliph ‘Umar with imprisonment and exile; and
al-Ḥuṭay’a (the Dwarf), who was unrivalled in satire. All these
belonged to the class of _Mukhaḍramún_, _i.e._, they were born in the
Pagan Age but died, if not Moslems, at any rate after the proclamation
of Islam.

[Sidenote: Collections of ancient poetry.]

The grammarians of Baṣra and Kúfa, by whom the remains of ancient
Arabian poetry were rescued from oblivion, arranged and collected their
material according to various principles. Either the poems of an
individual or those of a number of individuals belonging to the same
tribe or class were brought together--such a collection was called
_Díwán_, plural _Dawáwín_; or, again, the compiler edited a certain
number of _qaṣídas_ chosen for their fame or excellence or on other
grounds, or he formed an anthology of shorter pieces or fragments, which
were arranged under different heads according to their subject-matter.

[Sidenote: Díwáns.]

Among _Díwáns_ mention may be made of _The Díwáns of the Six Poets_,
viz. Nábigha, ‘Antara, Ṭarafa, Zuhayr, ‘Alqama, and Imru’u ’l-Qays,
edited with a full commentary by the Spanish philologist al-A‘lam
(† 1083 A.D.) and published in 1870 by Ahlwardt; and of _The Poems of the
Hudhaylites_ (_Ash‘áru ’l-Hudhaliyyín_) collected by al-Sukkarí
(† 888 A.D.), which have been published by Kosegarten and Wellhausen.

The chief Anthologies, taken in the order of their composition, are:--

[Sidenote: Anthologies. 1. The _Mu‘allaqát_.]

1. The _Mu‘allaqát_, which is the title given to a collection of seven
odes by Imru’u ’l-Qays, Ṭarafa, Zuhayr, Labíd, ‘Antara, ‘Amr b.
Kulthúm, and Ḥárith b. Ḥilliza; to these two odes by Nábigha and
A‘shá are sometimes added. The compiler was probably Ḥammád
al-Ráwiya, a famous rhapsodist of Persian descent, who flourished under
the Umayyads and died in the second half of the eighth century of our
era. As the _Mu‘allaqát_ have been discussed above, we may pass on
directly to a much larger, though less celebrated, collection dating
from the same period, viz.:--

[Sidenote: 2. The _Mufaḍḍaliyyát_.]

2. The _Mufaḍḍaliyyát_,[255] by which title it is generally known
after its compiler, Mufaḍḍal al-Ḑabbí († circa 786 A.D.), who
made it at the instance of the Caliph Manṣúr for the instruction of
his son and successor, Mahdí. It comprises 128 odes and is extant in two
recensions, that of Anbárí († 916 A.D.), which derives from Ibnu
’l-A‘rábí, the stepson of Mufaḍḍal, and that of Marzúqí († 1030
A.D.). About a third of the _Mufaḍḍaliyyát_ was published in 1885
by Thorbecke, and Sir Charles Lyall has recently edited the complete
text with Arabic commentary and English translation and notes.[256]

All students of Arabian poetry are familiar with--

[Sidenote: 3. The _Ḥamása_ of Abú Tammám.]

3. The _Ḥamása_ of Abú Tammám Ḥabíb b. Aws, himself a
distinguished poet, who flourished under the Caliphs Ma’mún and
Mu‘taṣim, and died about 850 A.D. Towards the end of his life he
visited ‘Abdulláh b. Ṭáhir, the powerful governor of Khurásán, who
was virtually an independent sovereign. It was on this journey, as Ibn
Khallikán relates, that Abú Tammám composed the _Ḥamása_; for on
arriving at Hamadhán (Ecbatana) the winter had set in, and as the cold
was excessively severe in that country, the snow blocked up the road and
obliged him to stop and await the thaw. During his stay he resided with
one of the most eminent men of the place, who possessed a library in
which were some collections of poems composed by the Arabs of the desert
and other authors. Having then sufficient leisure, he perused those
works and selected from them the passages out of which he formed his
_Ḥamása_.[257] The work is divided into ten sections of unequal
length, the first, from which it received its name, occupying (together
with the commentary) 360 pages in Freytag's edition, while the seventh
and eighth require only thirteen pages between them. These sections or
chapters bear the following titles:--

     I. The Chapter of Fortitude (_Bábu ’l-Ḥamása_).
    II. The Chapter of Dirges (_Bábu ’l-Maráthí_).
   III. The Chapter of Good Manners (_Bábu ’l-Adab_).
    IV. The Chapter of Love-Songs (_Bábu ’l-Nasíb_).
     V. The Chapter of Satire (_Bábu ’l-Hijá_).
    VI. The Chapter of Guests (Hospitality) and Panegyric (_Bábu
          ’l-Aḍyáf wa ’l-Madíh_).
   VII. The Chapter of Descriptions (_Bábu ’l-Ṣifát_).
  VIII. The Chapter of Travel and Repose (_Bábu ’l-Sayr wa ’l-Nu‘ás_).
    IX. The Chapter of Facetiæ (_Bábu ’l-Mulaḥ_).
     X. The Chapter of Vituperation of Women (_Bábu Madhammati

The contents of the _Ḥamása_ include short poems complete in
themselves as well as passages extracted from longer poems; of the poets
represented, some of whom belong to the Pre-islamic and others to the
early Islamic period, comparatively few are celebrated, while many are
anonymous or only known by the verses attached to their names. If the
high level of excellence attained by these obscure singers shows, on the
one hand, that a natural genius for poetry was widely diffused and that
the art was successfully cultivated among all ranks of Arabian society,
we must not forget how much is due to the fine taste of Abú Tammám, who,
as the commentator Tibrízí has remarked, "is a better poet in his
_Ḥamása_ than in his poetry."

[Sidenote: 4. The _Ḥamása_ of Buḥturí.]

4. The _Ḥamása_ of Buḥturí († 897 A.D.), a younger contemporary of
Abú Tammám, is inferior to its model.[258] However convenient from a
practical standpoint, the division into a great number of sections, each
illustrating a narrowly defined topic, seriously impairs the artistic
value of the work; moreover, Buḥturí seems to have had a less
catholic appreciation of the beauties of poetry--he admired, it is said,
only what was in harmony with his own style and ideas.

[Sidenote: 5. The _Jamhara_.]

5. The _Jamharatu Ash‘ári ’l-‘Arab_, a collection of forty-nine odes,
was put together probably about 1000 A.D. by Abú Zayd Muḥammad
al-Qurashí, of whom we find no mention elsewhere.

[Sidenote: Prose sources.]

Apart from the _Díwáns_ and anthologies, numerous Pre-islamic verses are
cited in biographical, philological, and other works, _e.g._, the
_Kitábu ’l-Aghání_ by Abu ’l-Faraj of Iṣfahán († 967 _A.D._), the
_Kitábu ’l-Amálí_ by Abú ‘Alí al-Qálí († 967 _A.D._), the _Kámil_ of
Mubarrad († 898 A.D.), and the _Khizánatu ’l-Adab_ of ‘Abdu ’l-Qádir of
Baghdád († 1682 A.D.).

[Sidenote: The tradition of Pre-islamic poetry.]

[Sidenote: The Ráwís.]

[Sidenote: The Humanists.]

We have seen that the oldest existing poems date from the beginning of
the sixth century of our era, whereas the art of writing did not come
into general use among the Arabs until some two hundred years
afterwards. Pre-islamic poetry, therefore, was preserved by oral
tradition alone, and the question arises, How was this possible? What
guarantee have we that songs living on men's lips for so long a period
have retained their original form, even approximately? No doubt many
verses, _e.g._, those which glorified the poet's tribe or satirised
their enemies, were constantly being recited by his kin, and in this way
short occasional poems or fragments of longer ones might be perpetuated.
Of whole _qaṣídas_ like the _Mu‘allaqát_, however, none or very few
would have reached us if their survival had depended solely on their
popularity. What actually saved them in the first place was an
institution resembling that of the Rhapsodists in Greece. Every
professed poet had his _Ráwí_ (reciter), who accompanied him everywhere,
committed his poems to memory, and handed them down, as well as the
circumstances connected with them, to others. The characters of poet and
_ráwí_ were often combined; thus Zuhayr was the _ráwí_ of his stepfather,
Aws b. Ḥajar, while his own _ráwí_ was al-Ḥuṭay’a. If the
tradition of poetry was at first a labour of love, it afterwards became
a lucrative business, and the _Ráwís_, instead of being attached to
individual poets, began to form an independent class, carrying in their
memories a prodigious stock of ancient verse and miscellaneous learning.
It is related, for example, that Ḥammád once said to the Caliph Walíd
b. Yazíd: "I can recite to you, for each letter of the alphabet, one
hundred long poems rhyming in that letter, without taking into count the
short pieces, and all that composed exclusively by poets who lived
before the promulgation of Islamism." He commenced and continued until
the Caliph, having grown fatigued, withdrew, after leaving a person in
his place to verify the assertion and hear him to the last. In that
sitting he recited two thousand nine hundred _qaṣídas_ by poets who
flourished before Muḥammad. Walíd, on being informed of the fact,
ordered him a present of one hundred thousand dirhems.[259] Thus,
towards the end of the first century after the Hijra, _i.e._, about 700
A.D., when the custom of _writing_ poetry began, there was much of
Pre-islamic origin still in circulation, although it is probable that
far more had already been irretrievably lost. Numbers of _Ráwís_
perished in the wars, or passed away in the course of nature, without
leaving any one to continue their tradition. New times had brought new
interests and other ways of life. The great majority of Moslems had no
sympathy whatever with the ancient poetry, which represented in their
eyes the unregenerate spirit of heathendom. They wanted nothing beyond
the Koran and the Ḥadíth. But for reasons which will be stated in
another chapter the language of the Koran and the Ḥadíth was rapidly
becoming obsolete as a spoken idiom outside of the Arabian peninsula:
the 'perspicuous Arabic' on which Muḥammad prided himself had ceased
to be fully intelligible to the Moslems settled in ‘Iráq and Khurásán,
in Syria, and in Egypt. It was essential that the Sacred Text should be
explained, and this necessity gave birth to the sciences of Grammar and
Lexicography. The Philologists, or, as they have been aptly designated,
the Humanists of Baṣra and Kúfa, where these studies were prosecuted
with peculiar zeal, naturally found their best material in the
Pre-islamic poems--a well of Arabic undefiled. At first the ancient
poetry merely formed a basis for philological research, but in process
of time a literary enthusiasm was awakened. The surviving _Ráwís_ were
eagerly sought out and induced to yield up their stores, the
compositions of famous poets were collected, arranged, and committed to
writing, and as the demand increased, so did the supply.[260]

[Sidenote: Corrupt tradition of the old poetry.]

[Sidenote: Ḥammád al-Ráwiya.]

[Sidenote: Khalaf al-Aḥmar.]

In these circumstances a certain amount of error was inevitable. Apart
from unconscious failings of memory, there can be no doubt that in many
cases the _Ráwís_ acted with intent to deceive. The temptation to father
their own verses, or centos which they pieced together from sources
known only to themselves, upon some poet of antiquity was all the
stronger because they ran little risk of detection. In knowledge of
poetry and in poetical talent they were generally far more than a match
for the philologists, who seldom possessed any critical ability, but
readily took whatever came to hand. The stories which are told of Ḥammád
al-Ráwiya, clearly show how unscrupulous he was in his methods, though
we have reason to suppose that he was not a typical example of his
class. His contemporary, Mufaḍḍal al-Ḑabbí, is reported to have said
that the corruption which poetry suffered through Ḥammád could never be
repaired, "for," he added, "Ḥammád is a man skilled in the language and
poesy of the Arabs and in the styles and ideas of the poets, and he is
always making verses in imitation of some one and introducing them into
genuine compositions by the same author, so that the copy passes
everywhere for part of the original, and cannot be distinguished from it
except by critical scholars--and where are such to be found?"[261] This
art of forgery was brought to perfection by Khalaf al-Aḥmar († about 800
A.D.), who learned it in the school of Ḥammád. If he really composed the
famous _Lámiyya_ ascribed to Shanfará, his own poetical endowments must
have been of the highest order. In his old age he repented and confessed
that he was the author of several poems which the scholars of Baṣra and
Kúfa had accepted as genuine, but they laughed him to scorn, saying,
"What you said then seems to us more trustworthy than your present

[Sidenote: Other causes of corruption.]

Besides the corruptions due to the _Ráwís_, others have been accumulated
by the philologists themselves. As the Koran and the Ḥadíth were, of
course, spoken and afterwards written in the dialect of Quraysh, to whom
Muḥammad belonged, this dialect was regarded as the classical
standard;[262] consequently the variations therefrom which occurred in
the ancient poems were, for the most part, 'emended' and harmonised with
it. Many changes were made under the influence of Islam, _e.g._, 'Allah'
was probably often substituted for the pagan goddess 'al-Lát.' Moreover,
the structure of the _qaṣída_, its disconnectedness and want of logical
cohesion, favoured the omission and transposition of whole passages or
single verses. All these modes of depravation might be illustrated in
detail, but from what has been said the reader can judge for himself how
far the poems, as they now stand, are likely to have retained the form
in which they were first uttered to the wild Arabs of the Pre-islamic

[Sidenote: Religion.]

[Sidenote: The Fair of ‘Ukáẓ.]

Religion had so little influence on the lives of the Pre-islamic Arabs
that we cannot expect to find much trace of it in their poetry. They
believed vaguely in a supreme God, Allah, and more definitely in his
three daughters--al-Lát, Manát, and al-‘Uzzá--who were venerated all
over Arabia and whose intercession was graciously accepted by Allah.
There were also numerous idols enjoying high favour while they continued
to bring good luck to their worshippers. Of real piety the ordinary
Bedouin knew nothing. He felt no call to pray to his gods, although he
often found them convenient to swear by. He might invoke Allah in the
hour of need, as a drowning man will clutch at a straw; but his faith in
superstitious ceremonies was stronger. He did not take his religion too
seriously. Its practical advantages he was quick to appreciate. Not to
mention baser pleasures, it gave him rest and security during the four
sacred months, in which war was forbidden, while the institution of the
Meccan Pilgrimage enabled him to take part in a national fête. Commerce
went hand in hand with religion. Great fairs were held, the most famous
being that of ‘Ukáẓ, which lasted for twenty days. These fairs were in
some sort the centre of old Arabian social, political, and literary
life. It was the only occasion on which free and fearless intercourse
was possible between the members of different clans.[263]

Plenty of excitement was provided by poetical and oratorical
displays--not by athletic sports, as in ancient Greece and modern
England. Here rival poets declaimed their verses and submitted them to
the judgment of an acknowledged master. Nowhere else had rising talents
such an opportunity of gaining wide reputation: what ‘Ukáẓ said to-day
all Arabia would repeat to-morrow. At ‘Ukáẓ, we are told, the youthful
Muḥammad listened, as though spellbound, to the persuasive eloquence of
Quss b. Sá‘ida, Bishop of Najrán; and he may have contrasted the
discourse of the Christian preacher with the brilliant odes chanted by
heathen bards.

The Bedouin view of life was thoroughly hedonistic. Love, wine,
gambling, hunting, the pleasures of song and romance, the brief,
pointed, and elegant expression of wit and wisdom--these things he knew
to be good. Beyond them he saw only the grave.

  "Roast meat and wine: the swinging ride
  On a camel sure and tried,
  Which her master speeds amain
  O'er low dale and level plain:
  Women marble-white and fair
  Trailing gold-fringed raiment rare:
  Opulence, luxurious ease,
  With the lute's soft melodies--
  Such delights hath our brief span;
  Time is Change, Time's fool is Man.
  Wealth or want, great store or small,
  All is one since Death's are all."[264]

It would be a mistake to suppose that these men always, or even
generally, passed their lives in the aimless pursuit of pleasure. Some
goal they had--earthly, no doubt--such as the accumulation of wealth or
the winning of glory or the fulfilment of blood-revenge. "_God forbid_"
says one, "_that I should die while a grievous longing, as it were a
mountain, weighs on my breast!_"[265] A deeper chord is touched by
Imru’u ’l-Qays: "_If I strove for a bare livelihood, scanty means would
suffice me and I would seek no more. But I strive for lasting renown,
and 'tis men like me that sometimes attain lasting renown. Never, while
life endures, does a man reach the summit of his ambition or cease from

[Sidenote: Judaism and Christianity in Arabia.]

[Sidenote: The ‘Ibád of Ḥíra.]

[Sidenote: ‘Adí b. Zayd.]

These are noble sentiments nobly expressed. Yet one hears the sigh of
weariness, as if the speaker were struggling against the conviction that
his cause is already lost, and would welcome the final stroke of
destiny. It was a time of wild uproar and confusion. Tribal and family
feuds filled the land, as Zuhayr says, with evil fumes. No wonder that
earnest and thoughtful minds asked themselves--What worth has our life,
what meaning? Whither does it lead? Such questions paganism could not
answer, but Arabia in the century before Muḥammad was not wholly
abandoned to paganism. Jewish colonists had long been settled in the
Ḥijáz. Probably the earliest settlements date from the conquest of
Palestine by Titus or Hadrian. In their new home the refugees, through
contact with a people nearly akin to themselves, became fully
Arabicised, as the few extant specimens of their poetry bear witness.
They remained Jews, however, not only in their cultivation of trade and
various industries, but also in the most vital particular--their
religion. This, and the fact that they lived in isolated communities
among the surrounding population, marked them out as the salt of the
desert. In the Ḥijáz their spiritual predominance was not seriously
challenged. It was otherwise in Yemen. We may leave out of account the
legend according to which Judaism was introduced into that country from
the Ḥijáz by the Tubba‘ As‘ad Kámil. What is certain is that towards the
beginning of the sixth century it was firmly planted there side by side
with Christianity, and that in the person of the Ḥimyarite monarch Dhú
Nuwás, who adopted the Jewish faith, it won a short-lived but sanguinary
triumph over its rival. But in Yemen, except among the highlanders of
Najrán, Christianity does not appear to have flourished as it did in the
extreme north and north-east, where the Roman and Persian frontiers were
guarded by the Arab levies of Ghassán and Ḥíra. We have seen that the
latter city contained a large Christian population who were called
distinctively ‘Ibád, _i.e._, Servants (of God). Through them the Aramaic
culture of Babylonia was transmitted to all parts of the peninsula. They
had learned the art of writing long before it was generally practised in
Arabia, as is shown by the story of Ṭarafa and Mutalammis, and they
produced the oldest _written_ poetry in the Arabic language--a poetry
very different in character from that which forms the main subject of
this chapter. Unfortunately the bulk of it has perished, since the
rhapsodists, to whom we owe the preservation of so much Pre-islamic
verse, were devoted to the traditional models and would not burden their
memories with anything new-fashioned. The most famous of the ‘Ibádí
poets is ‘Adí b. Zayd, whose adventurous career as a politician has been
sketched above. He is not reckoned by Muḥammadan critics among the
_Fuḥúl_ or poets of the first rank, because he was a townsman
(_qarawí_). In this connection the following anecdote is instructive.
The poet al-‘Ajjáj († about 709 A.D.) said of his contemporaries
al-Ṭirimmáḥ and al-Kumayt: "They used to ask me concerning rare
expressions in the language of poetry, and I informed them, but
afterwards I found the same expressions wrongly applied in their poems,
the reason being that they were townsmen who described what they had not
seen and misapplied it, whereas I who am a Bedouin describe what I have
seen and apply it properly."[267] ‘Adí is chiefly remembered for his
wine-songs. Oriental Christianity has always been associated with the
drinking and selling of wine. Christian ideas were carried into the
heart of Arabia by ‘Ibádí wine merchants, who are said to have taught
their religion to the celebrated A‘shá. ‘Adí drank and was merry like
the rest, but the underlying thought, 'for to-morrow we die,' repeatedly
makes itself heard. He walks beside a cemetery, and the voices of the
dead call to him--[268]

 "Thou who seest us unto thyself shalt say,
  'Soon upon me comes the season of decay.'
  Can the solid mountains evermore sustain
  Time's vicissitudes and all they bring in train?
  Many a traveller lighted near us and abode,
  Quaffing wine wherein the purest water flowed--
  Strainers on each flagon's mouth to clear the wine,
  Noble steeds that paw the earth in trappings fine!
  For a while they lived in lap of luxury,
  Fearing no misfortune, dallying lazily.
  Then, behold, Time swept them all, like chaff, away:
  Thus it is men fall to whirling Time a prey.
  Thus it is Time keeps the bravest and the best
  Night and day still plunged in Pleasure's fatal quest."

It is said that the recitation of these verses induced Nu‘mán al-Akbar,
one of the mythical pagan kings of Ḥíra, to accept Christianity and
become an anchorite. Although the story involves an absurd anachronism,
it is _ben trovato_ in so far as it records the impression which the
graver sort of Christian poetry was likely to make on heathen minds.

[Sidenote: Pre-Islamic poetry not exclusively pagan in sentiment.]

The courts of Ḥíra and Ghassán were well known to the wandering
minstrels of the time before Muḥammad, who flocked thither in eager
search of patronage and remuneration. We may be sure that men like
Nábigha, Labíd, and A‘shá did not remain unaffected by the culture
around them, even if it seldom entered very deeply into their lives.
That considerable traces of religious feeling are to be found in
Pre-islamic poetry admits of no denial, but the passages in question
were formerly explained as due to interpolation. This view no longer
prevails. Thanks mainly to the arguments of Von Kremer, Sir Charles
Lyall, and Wellhausen, it has come to be recognised (1) that in many
cases the above-mentioned religious feeling is not Islamic in tone; (2)
that the passages in which it occurs are not of Islamic origin; and (3)
that it is the natural and necessary result of the widely spread, though
on the whole superficial, influence of Judaism, and especially of
Christianity.[269] It shows itself not only in frequent allusions,
_e.g._, to the monk in his solitary cell, whose lamp serves to light
belated travellers on their way, and in more significant references,
such as that of Zuhayr already quoted, to the Heavenly Book in which
evil actions are enscrolled for the Day of Reckoning, but also in the
tendency to moralise, to look within, to meditate on death, and to value
the life of the individual rather than the continued existence of the
family. These things are not characteristic of old Arabian poetry, but
the fact that they do appear at times is quite in accord with the other
facts which have been stated, and justifies the conclusion that during
the sixth century religion and culture were imperceptibly extending
their sphere of influence in Arabia, leavening the pagan masses, and
gradually preparing the way for Islam.



With the appearance of Muḥammad the almost impenetrable veil thrown over
the preceding age is suddenly lifted and we find ourselves on the solid
ground of historical tradition. In order that the reasons for this
change may be understood, it is necessary to give some account of the
principal sources from which our knowledge of the Prophet's life and
teaching is derived.

[Sidenote: Sources of information: I. The Koran.]

[Sidenote: How it was preserved.]

[Sidenote: Value of the Koran as an authority.]

There is first, of course, the Koran,[270] consisting "exclusively of
the revelations or commands which Muḥammad professed, from time to time,
to receive through Gabriel as a message direct from God; and which,
under an alleged Divine direction, he delivered to those about him. At
the time of pretended inspiration, or shortly after, each passage was
recited by Muḥammad before the Companions or followers who happened to
be present, and was generally committed to writing by some one amongst
them upon palm-leaves, leather, stones, or such other rude material as
conveniently came to hand. These Divine messages continued throughout
the three-and-twenty years of his prophetical life, so that the last
portion did not appear till the year of his death. The canon was then
closed; but the contents were never, during the Prophet's lifetime,
systematically arranged, or even collected together."[271] They were
preserved, however, in fragmentary copies and, especially, by oral
recitation until the sanguinary wars which followed Muḥammad's death had
greatly diminished the number of those who could repeat them by heart.
Accordingly, after the battle of Yamáma (633 A.D.) ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭáb
came to Abú Bakr, who was then Caliph, and said: "I fear that slaughter
may wax hot among the Reciters on other battle-fields, and that much of
the Koran may be lost; so in my opinion it should be collected without
delay." Abú Bakr agreed, and entrusted the task to Zayd b. Thábit, one
of the Prophet's amanuenses, who collected the fragments with great
difficulty "from bits of parchment, thin white stones, leafless
palm-branches, and the bosoms of men." The manuscript thus compiled was
deposited with Abú Bakr during the remainder of his life, then with
‘Umar, on whose death it passed to his daughter Ḥafṣa. Afterwards, in
the Caliphate of ‘Uthmán, Ḥudhayfa b. al-Yamán, observing that the Koran
as read in Syria was seriously at variance with the text current in
‘Iráq, warned the Caliph to interfere, lest the Sacred Book of the
Moslems should become a subject of dispute, like the Jewish and
Christian scriptures. In the year 651 A.D. ‘Uthmán ordered Zayd b.
Thábit to prepare a Revised Version with the assistance of three
Qurayshites, saying to the latter, "If ye differ from Zayd regarding any
word of the Koran, write it in the dialect of Quraysh; for it was
revealed in their dialect."[272] This has ever since remained the final
and standard recension of the Koran. "Transcripts were multiplied and
forwarded to the chief cities in the empire, and all previously existing
copies were, by the Caliph's command, committed to the flames."[273] In
the text as it has come down to us the various readings are few and
unimportant, and its genuineness is above suspicion. We shall see,
moreover, that the Koran is an exceedingly human document, reflecting
every phase of Muḥammad's personality and standing in close relation to
the outward events of his life, so that here we have materials of unique
and incontestable authority for tracing the origin and early development
of Islam--such materials as do not exist in the case of Buddhism or
Christianity or any other ancient religion. Unfortunately the
arrangement of the Koran can only be described as chaotic. No
chronological sequence is observed in the order of the Súras (chapters),
which is determined simply by their length, the longest being placed
first.[274] Again, the chapters themselves are sometimes made up of
disconnected fragments having nothing in common except the rhyme; whence
it is often impossible to discover the original context of the words
actually spoken by the Prophet, the occasion on which they were
revealed, or the period to which they belong. In these circumstances the
Koran must be supplemented by reference to our second main source of
information, namely, Tradition.

[Sidenote: 2. Tradition (Ḥadíth).]

[Sidenote: Biographies of Muḥammad.]

[Sidenote: General collections.]

[Sidenote: Commentaries on the Koran.]

Already in the last years of Muḥammad's life (writes Dr. Sprenger) it
was a pious custom that when two Moslems met, one should ask for news
(_ḥadíth_) and the other should relate a saying or anecdote of the
Prophet. After his death this custom continued, and the name _Ḥadíth_
was still applied to sayings and stories which were no longer new.[275]
In the course of time an elaborate system of Tradition was built up, as
the Koran--originally the sole criterion by which Moslems were guided
alike in the greatest and smallest matters of public and private
interest--was found insufficient for the complicated needs of a rapidly
extending empire. Appeal was made to the sayings and practice (_sunna_)
of Muḥammad, which now acquired "the force of law and some of the
authority of inspiration." The Prophet had no Boswell, but almost as
soon as he began to preach he was a marked man whose _obiter dicta_
could not fail to be treasured by his Companions, and whose actions were
attentively watched. Thus, during the first century of Islam there was a
multitude of living witnesses from whom traditions were collected,
committed to memory, and orally handed down. Every tradition consists of
two parts: the text (_matn_) and the authority (_sanad_, or _isnád_),
_e.g._, the relater says, "I was told by _A_, who was informed by _B_,
who had it from _C_, that the Prophet (God bless him!) and Abú Bakr and
‘Umar used to open prayer with the words 'Praise to God, the Lord of all
creatures.'" Written records and compilations were comparatively rare in
the early period. Ibn Isḥáq († 768 A.D.) composed the oldest extant
Biography of the Prophet, which we do not possess, however, in its
original shape but only in the recension of Ibn Hishám († 833 A.D.). Two
important and excellent works of the same kind are the _Kitábu
’l-Maghází_ ('Book of the Wars') by Wáqidí († 822 A.D.) and the _Kitábu
’l-Ṭabaqát al-Kabír_ ('The Great Book of the Classes,' _i.e._, the
different classes of Muḥammad's Companions and those who came after
them) by Ibn Sa‘d († 844 A.D.). Of miscellaneous traditions intended to
serve the Faithful as a model and rule of life in every particular, and
arranged in chapters according to the subject-matter, the most ancient
and authoritative collections are those of Bukhárí († 870 A.D.) and
Muslim († 874 A.D.), both of which bear the same title, viz.,
_al-Ṣaḥíḥ_, 'The Genuine.' It only remains to speak of Commentaries on
the Koran. Some passages were explained by Muḥammad himself, but the
real founder of Koranic Exegesis was ‘Abdulláh b. ‘Abbás, the Prophet's
cousin. Although the writings of the early interpreters have entirely
perished, the gist of their researches is embodied in the great
commentary of Ṭabarí († 922 A.D.), a man of encyclopædic learning who
absorbed the whole mass of tradition existing in his time. Subsequent
commentaries are largely based on this colossal work, which has recently
been published at Cairo in thirty volumes. That of Zamakhsharí († 1143
A.D.), which is entitled the _Kashsháf_, and that of Bayḍáwí († 1286
A.D.) are the best known and most highly esteemed in the Muḥammadan
East. A work of wider scope is the _Itqán_ of Suyúṭí († 1505 A.D.),
which takes a general survey of the Koranic sciences, and may be
regarded as an introduction to the critical study of the Koran.

[Sidenote: Character of Moslem tradition.]

While every impartial student will admit the justice of Ibn Qutayba's
claim that no religion has such historical attestations as Islam--_laysa
li-ummatin mina ’l-umami asnádun ka-asnádihim_[276]--he must at the same
time cordially assent to the observation made by another Muḥammadan: "In
nothing do we see pious men more given to falsehood than in Tradition"
(_lam nara ’l-ṣáliḥína? fí shayin akdhaba minhum fi ’l-ḥadíth_).[277] Of
this severe judgment the reader will find ample confirmation in the
Second Part of Goldziher's _Muhammedanische Studien_.[278] During the
first century of Islam the forging of Traditions became a recognised
political and religious weapon, of which all parties availed themselves.
Even men of the strictest piety practised this species of fraud
(_tadlís_), and maintained that the end justified the means. Their point
of view is well expressed in the following words which are supposed to
have been spoken by the Prophet: "You must compare the sayings
attributed to me with the Koran; what agrees therewith is from me,
whether I actually said it or no;" and again, "Whatever good saying has
been said, I myself have said it."[279] As the result of such principles
every new doctrine took the form of an Apostolic _Ḥadíth_; every sect
and every system defended itself by an appeal to the authority of
Muḥammad. We may see how enormous was the number of false Traditions in
circulation from the fact that when Bukhárí († 870 A.D.) drew up his
collection entitled 'The Genuine' (_al-Ṣaḥíḥ_), he limited it to some
7,000, which he picked out of 600,000.

The credibility of Tradition, so far as it concerns the life of the
Prophet, cannot be discussed in this place.[280] The oldest and best
biography, that of Ibn Isḥáq, undoubtedly contains a great deal of
fabulous matter, but his narrative appears to be honest and fairly
authentic on the whole.

[Sidenote: Birth of Muḥammad.]

If we accept the traditional chronology, Muḥammad, son of ‘Abdulláh and
Ámina, of the tribe of Quraysh, was born at Mecca on the 12th of Rabí‘
al-Awwal, in the Year of the Elephant (570-571 A.D.). His descent from
Quṣayy is shown by the following table:--

          ‘Abd Manáf.
      │                    │
 ‘Abd Shams.            Háshim.
      │                    │
   Umayya.         ‘Abdu ’l-Muṭṭalib.
               │           │             │
            ‘Abbás.   ‘Abdulláh.     Abú Ṭálib.

[Sidenote: His childhood.]

Shortly after his birth he was handed over to a Bedouin nurse--Ḥalíma, a
woman of the Banú Sa‘d--so that until he was five years old he breathed
the pure air and learned to speak the unadulterated language of the
desert. One marvellous event which is said to have happened to him at
this time may perhaps be founded on fact:--

  [Sidenote: Muḥammad and the two angels.]

  "He and his foster-brother" (so Ḥalíma relates) "were among the
  cattle behind our encampment when my son came running to us and
  cried, 'My brother, the Qurayshite! two men clad in white took him
  and laid him on his side and cleft his belly; and they were stirring
  their hands in it.' When my husband and I went out to him we found
  him standing with his face turned pale, and on our asking, 'What
  ails thee, child?' he answered, 'Two men wearing white garments came
  to me and laid me on my side and cleft my belly and groped for
  something, I know not what.' We brought him back to our tent, and my
  husband said to me, 'O Ḥalíma, I fear this lad has been smitten
  (_uṣíba_); so take him home to his family before it becomes
  evident.' When we restored him to his mother she said, 'What has
  brought thee, nurse? Thou wert so fond of him and anxious that he
  should stay with thee.' I said, 'God has made him grow up, and I
  have done my part. I feared that some mischance would befall him, so
  I brought him back to thee as thou wishest.' 'Thy case is not thus,'
  said she; 'tell me the truth,' and she gave me no peace until I told
  her. Then she said, 'Art thou afraid that he is possessed by the
  Devil?' I said, 'Yes.' 'Nay, by God,' she replied, 'the Devil cannot
  reach him; my son hath a high destiny.'"[281]

Other versions of the story are more explicit. The angels, it is said,
drew forth Muḥammad's heart, cleansed it, and removed the black
clot--_i.e_., the taint of original sin.[282] If these inventions have
any basis at all beyond the desire to glorify the future Prophet, we
must suppose that they refer to some kind of epileptic fit. At a later
period he was subject to such attacks, which, according to the unanimous
voice of Tradition, often coincided with the revelations sent down from

[Sidenote: His meeting with the monk Baḥírá.]

‘Abdulláh had died before the birth of his son, and when, in his sixth
year, Muḥammad lost his mother also, the charge of the orphan was
undertaken first by his grandfather, the aged ‘Abdu ’l-Muṭṭalib, and
then by his uncle, Abú Ṭálib, a poor but honourable man, who nobly
fulfilled the duties of a guardian to the last hour of his life.
Muḥammad's small patrimony was soon spent, and he was reduced to herding
sheep--a despised employment which usually fell to the lot of women or
slaves. In his twelfth year he accompanied Abú Ṭálib on a trading
expedition to Syria, in the course of which he is said to have
encountered a Christian monk called Baḥírá, who discovered the Seal of
Prophecy between the boy's shoulders, and hailed him as the promised
apostle. Such anticipations deserve no credit whatever. The truth is
that until Muḥammad assumed the prophetic rôle he was merely an obscure
Qurayshite; and scarcely anything related of him anterior to that event
can be deemed historical except his marriage to Khadíja, an elderly
widow of considerable fortune, which took place when he was about
twenty-five years of age.

[Sidenote: The Ḥanífs.]

During the next fifteen years of his life Muḥammad was externally a
prosperous citizen, only distinguished from those around him by an
habitual expression of thoughtful melancholy. What was passing in his
mind may be conjectured with some probability from his first utterances
when he came forward as a preacher. It is certain, and he himself has
acknowledged, that he formerly shared the idolatry of his countrymen.
"_Did not He find thee astray and lead thee aright?_" (Kor. xciii, 7).
When and how did the process of conversion begin? These questions cannot
be answered, but it is natural to suppose that the all-important result,
on which Muḥammad's biographers concentrate their attention, was
preceded by a long period of ferment and immaturity. The idea of
monotheism was represented in Arabia by the Jews, who were particularly
numerous in the Ḥijáz, and by several gnostic sects of an ascetic
character--_e.g._, the Ṣábians[283] and the Rakúsians. Furthermore,
"Islamic tradition knows of a number of religious thinkers before
Muḥammad who are described as Ḥanífs,"[284] and of whom the best known
are Waraqa b. Nawfal of Quraysh; Zayd b. ‘Amr b. Nufayl, also of
Quraysh; and Umayya b. Abi ’l-Ṣalt of Thaqíf. They formed no sect, as
Sprenger imagined; and more recent research has demonstrated the
baselessness of the same scholar's theory that there was in Pre-islamic
times a widely-spread religious movement which Muḥammad organised,
directed, and employed for his own ends. His Arabian precursors, if they
may be so called, were merely a few isolated individuals. We are told by
Ibn Isḥáq that Waraqa and Zayd, together with two other Qurayshites,
rejected idolatry and left their homes in order to seek the true
religion of Abraham, but whereas Waraqa is said to have become a
Christian, Zayd remained a pious dissenter unattached either to
Christianity or to Judaism; he abstained from idol-worship, from eating
that which had died of itself, from blood, and from the flesh of animals
offered in sacrifice to idols; he condemned the barbarous custom of
burying female infants alive, and said, "I worship the Lord of
Abraham."[285] As regards Umayya b. Abi ’l-Ṣalt, according to the notice
of him in the _Aghání_, he had inspected and read the Holy Scriptures;
he wore sackcloth as a mark of devotion, held wine to be unlawful, was
inclined to disbelieve in idols, and earnestly sought the true religion.
It is said that he hoped to be sent as a prophet to the Arabs, and
therefore when Muḥammad appeared he envied and bitterly opposed
him.[286] Umayya's verses, some of which have been translated in a
former chapter,[287] are chiefly on religious topics, and show many
points of resemblance with the doctrines set forth in the early Súras of
the Koran. With one exception, all the Ḥanífs whose names are recorded
belonged to the Ḥijáz and the west of the Arabian peninsula. No doubt
Muḥammad, with whom most of them were contemporary, came under their
influence, and he may have received his first stimulus from this
quarter.[288] While they, however, were concerned only about their own
salvation, Muḥammad, starting from the same position, advanced far
beyond it. His greatness lies not so much in the sublime ideas by which
he was animated as in the tremendous force and enthusiasm of his appeal
to the universal conscience of mankind.

[Sidenote: Muḥammad's vision.]

In his fortieth year, it is said, Muḥammad began to dream dreams and see
visions, and desire solitude above all things else. He withdrew to a
cave on Mount Ḥirá, near Mecca, and engaged in religious austerities
(_taḥannuth_). One night in the month of Ramaḍán[289] the Angel[290]
appeared to him and said, "Read!" (_iqra’_). He answered, "I am no
reader" (_má ana bi-qári’in_).[291] Then the Angel seized him with a
strong grasp, saying, "Read!" and, as Muḥammad still refused to obey,
gripped him once more and spoke as follows:--


  (1) Read in the name of thy Lord[292] who created,
  (2) Who created Man of blood coagulated.
  (3) Read! Thy Lord is the most beneficent,
  (4) Who taught by the Pen,[293]
  (5) Taught that which they knew not unto men.

On hearing these words Muḥammad returned, trembling, to Khadíja and
cried, "Wrap me up! wrap me up!" and remained covered until the terror
passed away from him.[294] Another tradition relating to the same event
makes it clear that the revelation occurred in a dream.[295] "I awoke,"
said the Prophet, "and methought it was written in my heart." If we take
into account the notions prevalent among the Arabs of that time on the
subject of inspiration,[296] it will not appear surprising that Muḥammad
at first believed himself to be possessed, like a poet or soothsayer, by
one of the spirits called collectively _Jinn_. Such was his anguish of
mind that he even meditated suicide, but Khadíja comforted and reassured
him, and finally he gained the unalterable conviction that he was not a
prey to demoniacal influences, but a prophet divinely inspired. For some
time he received no further revelation.[297] Then suddenly, as he
afterwards related, he saw the Angel seated on a throne between earth
and heaven. Awe-stricken, he ran into his house and bade them wrap his
limbs in a warm garment (_dithár_). While he lay thus the following
verses were revealed:--


  (1) O thou who enwrapped dost lie!
  (2) Arise and prophesy,[298]
  (3) And thy Lord magnify,
  (4) And thy raiment purify,
  (5) And the abomination fly![299]

Muḥammad no longer doubted that he had a divinely ordained mission to
preach in public. His feelings of relief and thankfulness are expressed
in several Súras of this period, _e.g._--


  (1) By the Morning bright
  (2) And the softly falling Night,
  (3) Thy Lord hath not forsaken thee, neither art thou hateful in
        His sight.
  (4) Verily, the Beginning is hard unto thee, but the End shall be
  (5) Thou shalt be satisfied, the Lord shall thee requite.
  (6) Did not He shelter thee when He found thee in orphan's plight?
  (7) Did not He find thee astray and lead thee aright?
  (8) Did not He find thee poor and make thee rich by His might?
  (9) Wherefore, the orphan betray not,
 (10) And the beggar turn away not,
 (11) And tell of the bounty of thy Lord.

[Sidenote: The first Moslems.]

[Sidenote: Hostility of the Quraysh.]

[Sidenote: Emigration to Abyssinia.]

[Sidenote: Temporary reconciliation with the Quraysh.]

According to his biographers, an interval of three years elapsed between
the sending of Muḥammad and his appearance as a public preacher of the
faith that was in him. Naturally, he would first turn to his own family
and friends, but it is difficult to accept the statement that he made no
proselytes openly during so long a period. The contrary is asserted in
an ancient tradition related by al-Zuhrí († 742 A.D.), where we read
that the Prophet summoned the people to embrace Islam[301] both in
private and public; and that those who responded to his appeal were, for
the most part, young men belonging to the poorer class.[302] He found,
however, some influential adherents. Besides Khadíja, who was the first
to believe, there were his cousin ‘Alí, his adopted son, Zayd b.
Ḥáritha, and, most important of all, Abú Bakr b. Abí Quháfa, a leading
merchant of the Quraysh, universally respected and beloved for his
integrity, wisdom, and kindly disposition. At the outset Muḥammad seems
to have avoided everything calculated to offend the heathens, confining
himself to moral and religious generalities, so that many believed, and
the Meccan aristocrats themselves regarded him with good-humoured
toleration as a harmless oracle-monger. "Look!" they said as he passed
by, "there goes the man of the Banú ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib who tells of
heaven." But no sooner did he begin to emphasise the Unity of God, to
fulminate against idolatry, and to preach the Resurrection of the dead,
than his followers melted away in face of the bitter antagonism which
these doctrines excited amongst the Quraysh, who saw in the Ka‘ba and
its venerable cult the mainspring of their commercial prosperity, and
were irritated by the Prophet's declaration that their ancestors were
burning in hell-fire. The authority of Abú Ṭálib secured the personal
safety of Muḥammad; of the little band who remained faithful some were
protected by the strong family feeling characteristic of old Arabian
society, but many were poor and friendless; and these, especially the
slaves, whom the levelling ideas of Islam had attracted in large
numbers, were subjected to cruel persecution.[303] Nevertheless Muḥammad
continued to preach. "I will not forsake this cause" (thus he is said to
have answered Abú Ṭálib, who informed him of the threatening attitude of
the Quraysh and begged him not to lay on him a greater burden than he
could bear) "until God shall make it prevail or until I shall perish
therein--not though they should set the sun on my right hand and the
moon on my left!"[304] But progress was slow and painful: the Meccans
stood obstinately aloof, deriding both his prophetic authority and the
Divine chastisement with which he sought to terrify them. Moreover, they
used every kind of pressure short of actual violence in order to seduce
his followers, so that many recanted, and in the fifth year of his
mission he saw himself driven to the necessity of commanding a general
emigration to the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia, where the Moslems
would be received with open arms[305] and would be withdrawn from
temptation.[306] About a hundred men and women went into exile, leaving
their Prophet with a small party of staunch and devoted comrades to
persevere in a struggle that was daily becoming more difficult. In a
moment of weakness Muḥammad resolved to attempt a compromise with his
countrymen. One day, it is said, the chief men of Mecca, assembled in a
group beside the Ka‘ba, discussed as was their wont the affairs of the
city, when Muḥammad appeared and, seating himself by them in a friendly
manner, began to recite in their hearing the 53rd Súra of the Koran.
When he came to the verses (19-20)--

 "Do ye see Al-Lát and Al-‘Uzzá, and Manát, the third and last?"

Satan prompted him to add:--

 "These are the most exalted Cranes (or Swans),
  And verily their intercession is to be hoped for."

The Quraysh were surprised and delighted with this acknowledgment of
their deities; and as Muḥammad wound up the Súra with the closing

  "Wherefore bow down before God and serve Him,"

the whole assembly prostrated themselves with one accord on the ground
and worshipped.[307] But scarcely had Muḥammad returned to his house
when he repented of the sin into which he had fallen. He cancelled the
idolatrous verses and revealed in their place those which now stand in
the Koran--

 "Shall yours be the male and his the female?[308]
  This were then an unjust division!
  They are naught but names which ye and your fathers have named."

[Sidenote: Muḥammad's concession to the idolaters.]

We can easily comprehend why Ibn Hishám omits all mention of this
episode from his Biography, and why the fact itself is denied by many
Moslem theologians.[309] The Prophet's friends were scandalised, his
enemies laughed him to scorn. It was probably no sudden lapse, as
tradition represents, but a calculated endeavour to come to terms with
the Quraysh; and so far from being immediately annulled, the
reconciliation seems to have lasted long enough for the news of it to
reach the emigrants in Abyssinia and induce some of them to return to
Mecca. While putting the best face on the matter, Muḥammad felt keenly
both his own disgrace and the public discredit. It speaks well for his
sincerity that, as soon as he perceived any compromise with idolatry to
be impossible--to be, in fact, a surrender of the great principle by
which he was inspired--he frankly confessed his error and delusion.
Henceforth he "wages mortal strife with images in every shape"--there is
no god but Allah.

[Sidenote: Death of Khadíja and Abú Ṭálib.]

The further course of events which culminated in Muḥammad's Flight to
Medína may be sketched in a few words. Persecution now waxed hotter than
ever, as the Prophet, rising from his temporary vacillation like a giant
refreshed, threw his whole force into the denunciation of idolatry. The
conversion of ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭáb, the future Caliph, a man of 'blood
and iron,' gave the signal for open revolt. "The Moslems no longer
concealed their worship within their own dwellings, but with conscious
strength and defiant attitude assembled in companies about the Ka‘ba,
performed their rites of prayer and compassed the Holy House. Their
courage rose. Dread and uneasiness seized the Quraysh." The latter
retaliated by cutting off all relations with the Háshimites, who were
pledged to defend their kinsman, whether they recognised him as a
prophet or no. This ban or boycott secluded them in an outlying quarter
of the city, where for more than two years they endured the utmost
privations, but it only cemented their loyalty to Muḥammad, and
ultimately dissensions among the Quraysh themselves caused it to be
removed. Shortly afterwards the Prophet suffered a double
bereavement--the death of his wife, Khadíja, was followed by that of the
noble Abú Ṭálib, who, though he never accepted Islam, stood firm to the
last in defence of his brother's son. Left alone to protect himself,
Muḥammad realised that he must take some decisive step. The situation
was critical. Events had shown that he had nothing to hope and
everything to fear from the Meccan aristocracy. He had warned them again
and again of the wrath to come, yet they gave no heed. He was now
convinced that they would not and could not believe, since God in His
inscrutable wisdom had predestined them to eternal damnation.
Consequently he resolved on a bold and, according to Arab ways of
thinking, abominable expedient, namely, to abandon his fellow-tribesmen
and seek aid from strangers.[310] Having vainly appealed to the
inhabitants of Ṭá’if, he turned to Medína, where, among a population
largely composed of Jews, the revolutionary ideas of Islam might more
readily take root and flourish than in the Holy City of Arabian
heathendom. This time he was not disappointed. A strong party in Medína
hailed him as the true Prophet, eagerly embraced his creed, and swore to
defend him at all hazards. In the spring of the year 622 A.D. the
Moslems of Mecca quietly left their homes and journeyed northward. A few
months later (September, 622) Muḥammad himself, eluding the vigilance of
the Quraysh, entered Medína in triumph amidst the crowds and
acclamations due to a conqueror.

[Sidenote: The _Hijra_ or Migration to Medina (622 A.D.).]

This is the celebrated Migration or Hegira (properly _Hijra_) which
marks the end of the Barbaric Age (_al-Jáhiliyya_) and the beginning of
the Muḥammadan Era. It also marks a new epoch in the Prophet's history;
but before attempting to indicate the nature of the change it will be
convenient, in order that we may form a juster conception of his
character, to give some account of his early teaching and preaching as
set forth in that portion of the Koran which was revealed at Mecca.

[Sidenote: The Koran.]

[Sidenote: Was Muḥammad poet?]

Koran (Qur’án) is derived from the Arabic root _qara’a_, 'to read,' and
means 'reading aloud' or 'chanting.' This term may be applied either to
a single Revelation or to several recited together or, in its usual
acceptation, to the whole body of Revelations which are thought by
Moslems to be, actually and literally, the Word of God; so that in
quoting from the Koran they say _qála ’lláhu_, _i.e._, 'God said.' Each
Revelation forms a separate _Súra_ (chapter)[311] composed of verses of
varying length which have no metre but are generally rhymed. Thus, as
regards its external features, the style of the Koran is modelled upon
the _Saj‘_,[312] or rhymed prose, of the pagan soothsayers, but with
such freedom that it may fairly be described as original. Since it was
not in Muḥammad's power to create a form that should be absolutely new,
his choice lay between _Saj‘_ and poetry, the only forms of elevated
style then known to the Arabs. He himself declared that he was no
poet,[313] and this is true in the sense that he may have lacked the
technical accomplishment of verse-making. It must, however, be borne in
mind that his disavowal does not refer primarily to the poetic art, but
rather to the person and character of the poets themselves. He, the
divinely inspired Prophet, could have nothing to do with men who owed
their inspiration to demons and gloried in the ideals of paganism which
he was striving to overthrow. "_And the poets do those follow who go
astray! Dost thou not see that they wander distraught in every vale? and
that they say that which they do not?_" (Kor. xxvi, 224-226). Muḥammad
was not of these; although he was not so unlike them as he pretended.
His kinship with the pagan _Shá‘ir_ is clearly shown, for example, in
the 113th and 114th Súras, which are charms against magic and
_diablerie_, as well as in the solemn imprecation calling down
destruction upon the head of his uncle, ‘Abdu ’l-‘Uzzá, nicknamed Abú
Lahab (Father of Flame).


  (1) Perish the hands of Abú Lahab and perish he!
  (2) His wealth shall not avail him nor all he hath gotten in fee.
  (3) Burned in blazing fire he shall be!
  (4) And his wife, the faggot-bearer, also she.
  (5) Upon her neck a cord of fibres of the palm-tree.

If, then, we must allow that Muḥammad's contemporaries had some
justification for bestowing upon him the title of poet against which he
protested so vehemently, still less can his plea be accepted by the
modern critic, whose verdict will be that the Koran is not poetical as a
whole; that it contains many pages of rhetoric and much undeniable
prose; but that, although Muḥammad needed "heaven-sent moments for this
skill," in the early Meccan Súras frequently, and fitfully elsewhere,
his genius proclaims itself by grand lyrical outbursts which could never
have been the work of a mere rhetorician.

  [Sidenote: The Meccan Súras.]

  "Muḥammad's single aim in the Meccan Súras," says Nöldeke, "is to
  convert the people, by means of persuasion, from their false gods to
  the One God. To whatever point the discourse is directed, this
  always remains the ground-thought; but instead of seeking to
  convince the reason of his hearers by logical proofs, he employs the
  arts of rhetoric to work upon their minds through the imagination.
  Thus he glorifies God, describes His working in Nature and History,
  and ridicules on the other hand the impotence of the idols.
  Especially important are the descriptions of the everlasting bliss
  of the pious and the torments of the wicked: these, particularly the
  latter, must be regarded as one of the mightiest factors in the
  propagation of Islam, through the impression which they make on the
  imagination of simple men who have not been hardened, from their
  youth up, by similar theological ideas. The Prophet often attacks
  his heathen adversaries personally and threatens them with eternal
  punishment; but while he is living among heathens alone, he seldom
  assails the Jews who stand much nearer to him, and the Christians
  scarcely ever."[314]

The preposterous arrangement of the Koran, to which I have already
adverted, is mainly responsible for the opinion almost unanimously held
by European readers that it is obscure, tiresome, uninteresting; a
farrago of long-winded narratives and prosaic exhortations, quite
unworthy to be named in the same breath with the Prophetical Books of
the Old Testament. One may, indeed, peruse the greater part of the
volume, beginning with the first chapter, and find but a few passages of
genuine enthusiasm to relieve the prevailing dulness. It is in the short
Súras placed at the end of the Koran that we must look for evidence of
Muḥammad's prophetic gift. These are the earliest of all; in these the
flame of inspiration burns purely and its natural force is not abated.
The following versions, like those which have preceded, imitate the
original form as closely, I think, as is possible in English. They
cannot, of course, do more than faintly suggest the striking effect of
the sonorous Arabic when read aloud. The Koran was designed for oral
recitation, and it must be _heard_ in order to be justly appraised.


  (1) When the Sky shall be severèd,
  (2) And when the Stars shall be shiverèd,
  (3) And when the Seas to mingle shall be sufferèd,
  (4) And when the Graves shall be uncoverèd--
  (5) A soul shall know that which it hath deferred or deliverèd.[315]
  (6) O Man, what beguiled thee against thy gracious Master to rebel,
  (7) Who created thee and fashioned thee right and thy frame did fairly
  (8) He composed thee in whatever form He willed.
  (9) Nay, but ye disbelieve in the Ordeal![316]
 (10) Verily over you are Recorders honourable,
 (11) Your deeds inscribing without fail:[317]
 (12) What ye do they know well.
 (13) Surely the pious in delight shall dwell,
 (14) And surely the wicked shall be in Hell,
 (15) Burning there on the Day of Ordeal;
 (16) And evermore Hell-fire they shall feel!
 (17) What shall make thee to understand what is the Day of Ordeal?
 (18) Again, what shall make thee to understand what is the Day
        of Ordeal?--
 (19) A Day when one soul shall not obtain anything for another soul,
        but the command on that Day shall be with God alone.


  (1) By the Heaven in which Signs are set,
  (2) By the Day that is promisèd,
  (3) By the Witness and the Witnessèd:--
  (4) Cursèd be the Fellows of the Pit, they that spread
  (5) The fire with fuel fed,
  (6) When they sate by its head
  (7) And saw how their contrivance against the Believers sped;[318]
  (8) And they punished them not save that they believed on God,
         the Almighty, the Glorified,
  (9) To whom is the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth, and He
         seeth every thing beside.
 (10) Verily, for those who afflict believing men and women and
         repent not, the torment of Gehenna and the torment of
         burning is prepared.
 (11) Verily, for those who believe and work righteousness are
         Gardens beneath which rivers flow: this is the great
 (12) Stern is the vengeance of thy Lord.
 (13) He createth the living and reviveth the dead:
 (14) He doth pardon and kindly entreat:
 (15) The majestic Throne is His seat:
 (16) That he willeth He doeth indeed.
 (17) Hath not word come to thee of the multitude
 (18) Of Pharaoh, and of Thamúd?[319]
 (19) Nay, the infidels cease not from falsehood,
 (20) But God encompasseth them about.
 (21) Surely, it is a Sublime Koran that ye read,
 (22) On a Table inviolate.[320]


  (1) The Smiting! What is the Smiting?
  (2) And how shalt thou be made to understand what is the Smiting?
  (3) The Day when Men shall be as flies scatterèd,
  (4) And the Mountains shall be as shreds of wool tatterèd.
  (5) One whose Scales are heavy, a pleasing life he shall spend,
  (6) But one whose Scales are light, to the Abyss he shall descend.
  (7) What that is, how shalt thou be made to comprehend?
  (8) Scorching Fire without end!


  (1) Say: 'O Unbelievers,
  (2) I worship not that which ye worship,
  (3) And ye worship not that which I worship.
  (4) Neither will I worship that which ye worship,
  (5) Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
  (6) Ye have your religion and I have my religion.'

[Sidenote: The teaching of Muḥammad at Mecca.]

To summarise the cardinal doctrines preached by Muḥammad during the
Meccan period:--

1. There is no god but God.

2. Muḥammad is the Apostle of God, and the Koran is the Word of God
revealed to His Apostle.

3. The dead shall be raised to life at the Last Judgment, when every one
shall be judged by his actions in the present life.

4. The pious shall enter Paradise and the wicked shall go down to Hell.

Taking these doctrines separately, let us consider a little more in
detail how each of them is stated and by what arguments it is enforced.
The time had not yet come for drawing the sword: Muḥammad repeats again
and again that he is only a warner (_nadhír_) invested with no authority
to compel where he cannot persuade.

[Sidenote: The Unity of God.]

1. The Meccans acknowledged the supreme position of Allah, but in
ordinary circumstances neglected him in favour of their idols, so that,
as Muḥammad complains, "_When danger befalls you on the sea, the gods
whom ye invoke are forgotten except Him alone; yet when He brought you
safe to land, ye turned your backs on Him, for Man is ungrateful._"[321]
They were strongly attached to the cult of the Ka‘ba, not only by
self-interest, but also by the more respectable motives of piety towards
their ancestors and pride in their traditions. Muḥammad himself regarded
Allah as Lord of the Ka‘ba, and called upon the Quraysh to worship him
as such (Kor. cvi, 3). When they refused to do so on the ground that
they were afraid lest the Arabs should rise against them and drive them
forth from the land, he assured them that Allah was the author of all
their prosperity (Kor. xxviii, 57). His main argument, however, is drawn
from the weakness of the idols, which cannot create even a fly,
contrasted with the wondrous manifestations of Divine power and
providence in the creation of the heavens and the earth and all living

It was probably towards the close of the Meccan period that Muḥammad
summarised his Unitarian ideas in the following emphatic formula:--


  (1) Say: 'God is One;
  (2) God who liveth on;
  (3) Without father and without son;
  (4) And like to Him there is none!'

[Sidenote: Muḥammad, the Apostle of God.]

2. We have seen that when Muḥammad first appeared as a prophet he was
thought by all except a very few to be _majnún_, _i.e._, possessed by a
_jinní_, or genie, if I may use a word which will send the reader back
to his _Arabian Nights_. The heathen Arabs regarded such
persons--soothsayers, diviners, and poets--with a certain respect; and
if Muḥammad's 'madness' had taken a normal course, his claim to
inspiration would have passed unchallenged. What moved the Quraysh to
oppose him was not disbelief in his inspiration--it mattered little to
them whether he was under the spell of Allah or one of the _Jinn_--but
the fact that he preached doctrines which wounded their sentiments,
threatened their institutions, and subverted the most cherished
traditions of old Arabian life. But in order successfully to resist the
propaganda for which he alleged a Divine warrant, they were obliged to
meet him on his own ground and to maintain that he was no prophet at
all, no Apostle of Allah, as he asserted, but "an insolent liar," "a
schooled madman," "an infatuated poet," and so forth; and that his
Koran, which he gave out to be the Word of Allah, was merely "old folks'
tales" (_asáṭíru ’l-awwalín_), or the invention of a poet or a sorcerer.
"Is not he," they cried, "a man like ourselves, who wishes to domineer
over us? Let him show us a miracle, that we may believe." Muḥammad could
only reiterate his former assertions and warn the infidels that a
terrible punishment was in store for them either in this world or the
next. Time after time he compares himself to the ancient prophets--Noah,
Abraham, Moses, and their successors--who are represented as employing
exactly the same arguments and receiving the same answers as Muḥammad;
and bids his people hearken to him lest they utterly perish like the
ungodly before them. The truth of the Koran is proved, he says, by the
Pentateuch and the Gospel, all being Revelations of the One God, and
therefore identical in substance. He is no mercenary soothsayer, he
seeks no personal advantage: his mission is solely to preach. The demand
for a miracle he could not satisfy except by pointing to his visions of
the Angel and especially to the Koran itself, every verse of which was a
distinct sign or miracle (_áyat_).[324] If he has forged it, why are his
adversaries unable to produce anything similar? "_Say: 'If men and
genies united to bring the like of this Koran, they could not bring the
like although they should back each other up'_" (Kor. xvii, 90).

[Sidenote: Resurrection and Retribution.]

3. Such notions of a future life as were current in Pre-islamic Arabia
never rose beyond vague and barbarous superstition, _e.g._, the fancy
that the dead man's tomb was haunted by his spirit in the shape of a
screeching owl.[325] No wonder, then, that the ideas of Resurrection and
Retribution, which are enforced by threats and arguments on almost every
page of the Koran, appeared to the Meccan idolaters absurdly ridiculous
and incredible. "_Does Ibn Kabsha promise us that we shall live?_" said
one of their poets. "_How can there be life for the ṣadá and the háma?
Dost thou omit to ward me from death, and wilt thou revive me when my
bones are rotten?_"[326] God provided His Apostle with a ready answer to
these gibes: "_Say: 'He shall revive them who produced them at first,
for He knoweth every creation_" (Kor. xxxvi, 79). This topic is
eloquently illustrated, but Muḥammad's hearers were probably less
impressed by the creative power of God as exhibited in Nature and in Man
than by the awful examples, to which reference has been made, of His
destructive power as manifested in History. To Muḥammad himself, at the
outset of his mission, it seemed an appalling certainty that he must one
day stand before God and render an account; the overmastering sense of
his own responsibility goaded him to preach in the hope of saving his
countrymen, and supplied him, weak and timorous as he was, with strength
to endure calumny and persecution. As Nöldeke has remarked, the grandest
Súras of the whole Koran are those in which Muḥammad describes how all
Nature trembles and quakes at the approach of the Last Judgment. "It is
as though one actually saw the earth heaving, the mountains crumbling to
dust, and the stars hurled hither and thither in wild confusion."[327]
Súras lxxxii and ci, which have been translated above, are specimens of
the true prophetic style.[328]

[Sidenote: The Muḥammadan Paradise.]

4. There is nothing spiritual in Muḥammad's pictures of Heaven and Hell.
His Paradise is simply a glorified pleasure-garden, where the pious
repose in cool shades, quaffing spicy wine and diverting themselves with
the Houris (_Ḥúr_), lovely dark-eyed damsels like pearls hidden in their
shells.[329] This was admirably calculated to allure his hearers by
reminding them of one of their chief enjoyments--the gay drinking
parties which occasionally broke the monotony of Arabian life, and which
are often described in Pre-islamic poetry; indeed, it is highly probable
that Muḥammad drew a good deal of his Paradise from this source. The
gross and sensual character of the Muḥammadan Afterworld is commonly
thought to betray a particular weakness of the Prophet or is charged to
the Arabs in general, but as Professor Bevan has pointed out, "the real
explanation seems to be that at first the idea of a future retribution
was absolutely new both to Muḥammad himself and to the public which he
addressed. Paradise and Hell had no traditional associations, and the
Arabic language furnished no religious terminology for the expression of
such ideas; if they were to be made comprehensible at all, it could only
be done by means of precise descriptions, of imagery borrowed from
earthly affairs."[330]

[Sidenote: Prayer.]

Muḥammad was no mere visionary. Ritual observances, vigils, and other
austerities entered largely into his religion, endowing it with the
formal and ascetic character which it retains to the present day. Prayer
was introduced soon after the first Revelations: in one of the oldest
(Súra lxxxvii, 14-15) we read, "_Prosperous is he who purifies himself
(or gives alms) and repeats the name of his Lord and prays._" Although
the five daily prayers obligatory upon every true believer are nowhere
mentioned in the Koran, the opening chapter (_Súratu ’l-Fátiḥa_), which
answers to our Lord's Prayer, is constantly recited on these occasions,
and is seldom omitted from any act of public or private devotion. Since
the _Fátiḥa_ probably belongs to the latest Meccan period, it may find a
place here.


  (1) In the name of God, the Merciful, who forgiveth aye!
  (2) Praise to God, the Lord of all that be,
  (3) The Merciful, who forgiveth aye,
  (4) The King of Judgment Day!
  (5) Thee we worship and for Thine aid we pray.
  (6) Lead us in the right way,
  (7) The way of those to whom thou hast been gracious, against
          whom thou hast not waxed wroth, and who go not

[Sidenote: The Night journey and Ascension of Muḥammad.]

About the same time, shortly before the Migration, Muḥammad dreamed that
he was transported from the Ka‘ba to the Temple at Jerusalem, and thence
up to the seventh heaven. The former part of the vision is indicated in
the Koran (xvii, 1): "_Glory to him who took His servant a journey by
night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, the precinct
whereof we have blessed, to show him of our signs!_" Tradition has
wondrously embellished the _Mi‘ráj_, by which name the Ascension of the
Prophet is generally known throughout the East; while in Persia and
Turkey it has long been a favourite theme for the mystic and the poet.
According to the popular belief, which is also held by the majority of
Moslem divines, Muḥammad was transported in the body to his journey's
end, but he himself never countenanced this literal interpretation,
though it seems to have been current in Mecca, and we are told that it
caused some of his incredulous followers to abandon their faith.

[Sidenote: Muḥammad at Medína.]

Possessed and inspired by the highest idea of which man is capable,
fearlessly preaching the truth revealed to him, leading almost alone
what long seemed to be a forlorn hope against the impregnable stronghold
of superstition, yet facing these tremendous odds with a calm resolution
which yielded nothing to ridicule or danger, but defied his enemies to
do their worst--Muḥammad in the early part of his career presents a
spectacle of grandeur which cannot fail to win our sympathy and
admiration. At Medína, whither we must now return, he appears in a less
favourable light: the days of pure religious enthusiasm have passed away
for ever, and the Prophet is overshadowed by the Statesman. The
Migration was undoubtedly essential to the establishment of Islam. It
was necessary that Muḥammad should cut himself off from his own people
in order that he might found a community in which not blood but religion
formed the sole bond that was recognised. This task he
accomplished with consummate sagacity and skill, though some of the
methods which he employed can only be excused by his conviction that
whatever he did was done in the name of Allah. As the supreme head of
the Moslem theocracy both in spiritual and temporal matters--for Islam
allows no distinction between Church and State--he exercised absolute
authority, and he did not hesitate to justify by Divine mandate acts of
which the heathen Arabs, cruel and treacherous as they were, might have
been ashamed to be guilty. We need not inquire how much was due to
belief in his inspiration and how much to deliberate policy. If it
revolts us to see God Almighty introduced in the rôle of special
pleader, we ought to remember that Muḥammad, being what he was, could
scarcely have considered the question from that point of view.

[Sidenote: Medína predisposed to welcome Muḥammad as Legislator and

The conditions prevailing at Medína were singularly adapted to his
design. Ever since the famous battle of Bu‘áth (about 615 A.D.), in
which the Banú Aws, with the help of their Jewish allies, the Banú
Qurayẓa and the Banú Naḍír, inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Banú
Khazraj, the city had been divided into two hostile camps; and if peace
had hitherto been preserved, it was only because both factions were too
exhausted to renew the struggle. Wearied and distracted by earthly
calamities, men's minds willingly admit the consolations of religion. We
find examples of this tendency at Medína even before the Migration. Abú
‘Ámir, whose ascetic life gained for him the title of 'The Monk'
(_al-Ráhib_), is numbered among the _Ḥanífs_.[331] He fought in the
ranks of the Quraysh at Uḥud, and finally went to Syria, where he died
an outlaw. Another Pre-islamic monotheist of Medína, Abú Qays b. Abí
Anas, is said to have turned Moslem in his old age.[332]

  "The inhabitants of Medína had no material interest in idol-worship
  and no sanctuary to guard. Through uninterrupted contact with the
  Jews of the city and neighbourhood, as also with the Christian
  tribes settled in the extreme north of Arabia on the confines of the
  Byzantine Empire, they had learned, as it were instinctively, to
  despise their inherited belief in idols and to respect the far
  nobler and purer faith in a single God; and lastly, they had become
  accustomed to the idea of a Divine revelation by means of a special
  scripture of supernatural origin, like the Pentateuch and the
  Gospel. From a religious standpoint paganism in Medína offered no
  resistance to Islam: as a faith, it was dead before it was attacked;
  none defended it, none mourned its disappearance. The pagan
  opposition to Muḥammad's work as a reformer was entirely
  political, and proceeded from those who wished to preserve the
  anarchy of the old heathen life, and who disliked the dictatorial
  rule of Muḥammad."[333]

[Sidenote: Parties in Medína.]

There were in Medína four principal parties, consisting of those who
either warmly supported or actively opposed the Prophet, or who adopted
a relatively neutral attitude, viz., the Emigrants (_Muhájirún_), the
Helpers (_Anṣár_), the Hypocrites (_Munáfiqún_), and the Jews (_Yahúd_).

[Sidenote: The Emigrants.]

The Emigrants were those Moslems who left their homes at Mecca and
accompanied the Prophet in his Migration (_Hijra_)--whence their name,
_Muhájirún_--to Medína in the year 622. Inasmuch as they had lost
everything except the hope of victory and vengeance, he could count upon
their fanatical devotion to himself.

[Sidenote: The Helpers.]

The Helpers were those inhabitants of Medína who had accepted Islam and
pledged themselves to protect Muḥammad in case of attack. Together with
the Emigrants they constituted a formidable and ever-increasing body of
true believers, the first champions of the Church militant.

  [Sidenote: The Hypocrites.]

  "Many citizens of Medína, however, were not so well disposed towards
  Muḥammad, and neither acknowledged him as a Prophet nor would
  submit to him as their Ruler; but since they durst not come forward
  against him openly on account of the multitude of his enthusiastic
  adherents, they met him with a passive resistance which more than
  once thwarted his plans, their influence was so great that he, on
  his part, did not venture to take decisive measures against them,
  and sometimes even found it necessary to give way."[334]

These are the Hypocrites whom Muḥammad describes in the following
verses of the Koran:--


  (7) And there are those among men who say, 'We believe in God
        and in the Last Day'; but they do not believe.

  (8) They would deceive God and those who do believe; but they
        deceive only themselves and they do not perceive.

  (9) In their hearts is a sickness, and God has made them still more
        sick, and for them is grievous woe because they lied.[335]

Their leader, ‘Abdulláh b. Ubayy, an able man but of weak character, was
no match for Muḥammad, whom he and his partisans only irritated, without
ever becoming really dangerous.

[Sidenote: The Jews.]

The Jews, on the other hand, gave the Prophet serious trouble. At first
he cherished high hopes that they would accept the new Revelation which
he brought to them, and which he maintained to be the original Word of
God as it was formerly revealed to Abraham and Moses; but when the Jews,
perceiving the absurdity of this idea, plied him with all sorts of
questions and made merry over his ignorance, Muḥammad, keenly alive to
the damaging effect of the criticism to which he had exposed himself,
turned upon his tormentors, and roundly accused them of having falsified
and corrupted their Holy Books. Henceforth he pursued them with a deadly
hatred against which their political disunion rendered them helpless. A
few sought refuge in Islam; the rest were either slaughtered or driven
into exile.

It is impossible to detail here the successive steps by which Muḥammad
in the course of a few years overcame all opposition and established the
supremacy of Islam from one end of Arabia to the other. I shall notice
the outstanding events very briefly in order to make room for matters
which are more nearly connected with the subject of this History.

[Sidenote: Beginnings of the Moslem State.]

Muḥammad's first care was to reconcile the desperate factions within the
city and to introduce law and order among the heterogeneous elements
which have been described. "He drew up in writing a charter between the
Emigrants and the Helpers, in which charter he embodied a covenant with
the Jews, confirming them in the exercise of their religion and in the
possession of their properties, imposing upon them certain obligations,
and granting to them certain rights."[336] This remarkable document is
extant in Ibn Hishám's _Biography of Muḥammad_, pp. 341-344. Its
contents have been analysed in masterly fashion by Wellhausen,[337] who
observes with justice that it was no solemn covenant, accepted and duly
ratified by representatives of the parties concerned, but merely a
decree of Muḥammad based upon conditions already existing which had
developed since his arrival in Medína. At the same time no one can study
it without being impressed by the political genius of its author.
Ostensibly a cautious and tactful reform, it was in reality a
revolution. Muḥammad durst not strike openly at the independence of the
tribes, but he destroyed it, in effect, by shifting the centre of power
from the tribe to the community; and although the community included
Jews and pagans as well as Moslems, he fully recognised, what his
opponents failed to foresee, that the Moslems were the active, and must
soon be the predominant, partners in the newly founded State.

[Sidenote: Battle of Badr, January, 624 A.D.]

[Sidenote: Battle of Uḥud, 625 A.D.]

[Sidenote: Submission of Mecca, 630 A.D.]

All was now ripe for the inevitable struggle with the Quraysh, and God
revealed to His Apostle several verses of the Koran in which the
Faithful are commanded to wage a Holy War against them: "_Permission is
given to those who fight because they have been wronged,--and verily God
to help them has the might,--who have been driven forth from their homes
undeservedly, only for that they said, 'Our Lord is God'_" (xxii,
40-41). "_Kill them wherever ye find them, and drive them out from
whence they drive you out_" (ii, 187). "_Fight them that there be no
sedition and that the religion may be God's_" (ii, 189). In January, 624
A.D., the Moslems, some three hundred strong, won a glorious victory at
Badr over a greatly superior force which had marched out from Mecca to
relieve a rich caravan that Muḥammad threatened to cut off. The Quraysh
fought bravely, but were borne down by the irresistible onset of men who
had learned discipline in the mosque and looked upon death as a sure
passport to Paradise. Of the Moslems only fourteen fell; the Quraysh
lost forty-nine killed and about the same number of prisoners. But the
importance of Muḥammad's success cannot be measured by the material
damage which he inflicted. Considering the momentous issues involved, we
must allow that Badr, like Marathon, is one of the greatest and most
memorable battles in all history. Here, at last, was the miracle which
the Prophet's enemies demanded of him: "_Ye have had a sign in the two
parties who met; one party fighting in the way of God, the other
misbelieving; these saw twice the same number as themselves to the
eyesight, for God aids with His help those whom He pleases. Verily in
that is a lesson for those who have perception_" (Kor. iii, 11). And
again, "_Ye slew them not, but God slew them_" (Kor. viii, 17). The
victory of Badr turned all eyes upon Muḥammad. However little the Arabs
cared for his religion, they could not but respect the man who had
humbled the lords of Mecca. He was now a power in the land--"Muḥammad,
King of the Ḥijáz."[338] In Medína his cause flourished mightily. The
zealots were confirmed in their faith, the waverers convinced, the
disaffected overawed. He sustained a serious, though temporary, check in
the following year at Uḥud, where a Moslem army was routed by the
Quraysh under Abú Sufyán, but the victors were satisfied with having
taken vengeance for Badr and made no attempt to follow up their
advantage; while Muḥammad, never resting on his laurels, never losing
sight of the goal, proceeded with remorseless calculation to crush his
adversaries one after the other, until in January, 630 A.D., the Meccans
themselves, seeing the futility of further resistance, opened their
gates to the Prophet and acknowledged the omnipotence of Allah. The
submission of the Holy City left Muḥammad without a rival in Arabia. His
work was almost done. Deputations from the Bedouin tribes poured into
Medína, offering allegiance to the conqueror of the Quraysh, and
reluctantly subscribing to a religion in which they saw nothing so
agreeable as the prospect of plundering its enemies.

[Sidenote: Death of Muḥammad, 632 A.D.]

Muḥammad died, after a brief illness, on the 8th of June, 632 A.D. He
was succeeded as head of the Moslem community by his old friend and
ever-loyal supporter, Abú Bakr, who thus became the first _Khalífa_, or
Caliph. It only remains to take up our survey of the Koran, which we
have carried down to the close of the Meccan period, and to indicate the
character and contents of the Revelation during the subsequent decade.

[Sidenote: The Medína Súras.]

The Medína Súras faithfully reflect the marvellous change in Muḥammad's
fortunes, which began with his flight from Mecca. He was now recognised
as the Prophet and Apostle of God, but this recognition made him an
earthly potentate and turned his religious activity into secular
channels. One who united in himself the parts of prince, legislator,
politician, diplomatist, and general may be excused if he sometimes
neglected the Divine injunction to arise and preach, or at any rate
interpreted it in a sense very different from that which he formerly
attached to it. The Revelations of this time deal, to a large extent,
with matters of legal, social, and political interest; they promulgate
religious ordinances--_e.g._, fasting, alms-giving, and
pilgrimage--expound the laws of marriage and divorce, and comment upon
the news of the day; often they serve as bulletins or manifestoes in
which Muḥammad justifies what he has done, urges the Moslems to fight
and rebukes the laggards, moralises on a victory or defeat, proclaims a
truce, and says, in short, whatever the occasion seems to require.
Instead of the Meccan idolaters, his opponents in Medína--the Jews and
Hypocrites--have become the great rocks of offence; the Jews especially
are denounced in long passages as a stiff-necked generation who never
hearkened to their own prophets of old. However valuable historically,
the Medína Súras do not attract the literary reader. In their flat and
tedious style they resemble those of the later Meccan period. Now and
again the ashes burst into flame, though such moments of splendour are
increasingly rare, as in the famous 'Throne-verse' (_Áyatu ’l-Kursí_):--

  [Sidenote: The 'Throne-verse.']

  "God, there is no god but He, the living, the self-subsistent.
  Slumber takes Him not, nor sleep. His is what is in the heavens and
  what is in the earth. Who is it that intercedes with Him save by His
  permission? He knows what is before them and what behind them, and
  they comprehend not aught of His knowledge but of what He pleases.
  His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and it tires Him
  not to guard them both, for He is high and grand."[339]

[Sidenote: The nationalisation of Islam.]

The Islam which Muḥammad brought with him to Medína was almost entirely
derived by oral tradition from Christianity and Judaism, and just for
this reason it made little impression on the heathen Arabs, whose
religious ideas were generally of the most primitive kind.
Notwithstanding its foreign character and the absence of anything which
appealed to Arabian national sentiment, it spread rapidly in Medína,
where, as we have seen, the soil was already prepared for it; but one
may well doubt whether it could have extended its sway over the
peninsula unless the course of events had determined Muḥammad to
associate the strange doctrines of Islam with the ancient heathen
sanctuary at Mecca, the Ka‘ba, which was held in universal veneration by
the Arabs and formed the centre of a worship that raised no difficulties
in their minds. Before he had lived many months in Medína the Prophet
realised that his hope of converting the Jews was doomed to
disappointment. Accordingly he instructed his followers that they should
no longer turn their faces in prayer towards the Temple at Jerusalem, as
they had been accustomed to do since the Flight, but towards the Ka‘ba;
while, a year or two later, he incorporated in Islam the superstitious
ceremonies of the pilgrimage, which were represented as having been
originally prescribed to Abraham, the legendary founder of the Ka‘ba,
whose religion he professed to restore.

[Sidenote: Antagonism of Islamic and Arabian ideals.]

These concessions, however, were far from sufficient to reconcile the
free-living and freethinking people of the desert to a religion which
restrained their pleasures, forced them to pay taxes and perform
prayers, and stamped with the name of barbarism all the virtues they
held most dear. The teaching of Islam ran directly counter to the ideals
and traditions of heathendom, and, as Goldziher has remarked, its
originality lies not in its doctrines, which are Jewish and Christian,
but in the fact that it was Muḥammad who first maintained these
doctrines with persistent energy against the Arabian view of life.[340]
While we must refer the reader to Dr. Goldziher's illuminating pages for
a full discussion of the conflict between the new Religion (_Dín_) and
the old Virtue (_Muruwwa_), it will not be amiss to summarise the chief
points at which they clashed with each other.[341] In the first place,
the fundamental idea of Islam was foreign and unintelligible to the
Bedouins. "It was not the destruction of their idols that they opposed
so much as the spirit of devotion which it was sought to implant in
them: the determination of their whole lives by the thought of God and
of His pre-ordaining and retributive omnipotence, the prayers and fasts,
the renouncement of coveted pleasures, and the sacrifice of money and
property which was demanded of them in God's name." In spite of the
saying, _Lá dína illá bi ’l-muruwwati_ ("There is no religion without
virtue"), the Bedouin who accepted Islam had to unlearn the greater part
of his unwritten moral code. As a pious Moslem he must return good for
evil, forgive his enemy, and find balm for his wounded feelings in the
assurance of being admitted to Paradise (Kor. iii, 128). Again, the
social organisation of the heathen Arabs was based on the tribe, whereas
that of Islam rested on the equality and fraternity of all believers.
The religious bond cancelled all distinctions of rank and pedigree; it
did away, theoretically, with clannish feuds, contests for honour, pride
of race--things that lay at the very root of Arabian chivalry. "_Lo_,"
cried Muḥammad, "_the noblest of you in the sight of God is he who most
doth fear Him_" (Kor. xlix, 13). Against such doctrine the conservative
and material instincts of the desert people rose in revolt; and although
they became Moslems _en masse_, the majority of them neither believed in
Islam nor knew what it meant. Often their motives were frankly
utilitarian: they expected that Islam would bring them luck; and so long
as they were sound in body, and their mares had fine foals, and their
wives bore well-formed sons, and their wealth and herds multiplied, they
said, "We have been blessed ever since we adopted this religion," and
were content; but if things went ill they blamed Islam and turned their
backs on it.[342] That these men were capable of religious zeal is amply
proved by the triumphs which they won a short time afterwards over the
disciplined armies of two mighty empires; but what chiefly inspired
them, apart from love of booty, was the conviction, born of success,
that Allah was fighting on their side.

We have sketched, however barely and imperfectly, the progress of Islam
from Muḥammad's first appearance as a preacher to the day of his death.
In these twenty years the seeds were sown of almost every development
which occurs in the political and intellectual history of the Arabs
during the ages to come. More than any man that has ever lived, Muḥammad
shaped the destinies of his people; and though they left him far behind
as they moved along the path of civilisation, they still looked back to
him for guidance and authority at each step. This is not the place to
attempt an estimate of his character, which has been so diversely
judged. Personally, I feel convinced that he was neither a shameless
impostor nor a neurotic degenerate nor a socialistic reformer, but in
the beginning, at all events, a sincere religious enthusiast, as truly
inspired as any prophet of the Old Testament.

  [Sidenote: Character of Muḥammad.]

  "We find in him," writes De Goeje, "that sober understanding which
  distinguished his fellow-tribesmen: dignity, tact, and equilibrium;
  qualities which are seldom found in people of morbid constitution:
  self-control in no small degree. Circumstances changed him from a
  Prophet to a Legislator and a Ruler, but for himself he sought
  nothing beyond the acknowledgment that he was Allah's Apostle, since
  this acknowledgment includes the whole of Islam. He was excitable,
  like every true Arab, and in the spiritual struggle which preceded
  his call this quality was stimulated to an extent that alarmed even
  himself; but that does not make him a visionary. He defends himself,
  by the most solemn asseveration, against the charge that what he had
  seen was an illusion of the senses. Why should not we believe



The Caliphate--_i.e._, the period of the Caliphs or Successors of
Muḥammad--extends over six centuries and a quarter (632-1258 A.D.),
and falls into three clearly-marked divisions of very unequal length and
diverse character.

[Sidenote: The Orthodox Caliphate (632-661 A.D.).]

The first division begins with the election of Abú Bakr, the first
Caliph, in 632, and comes to an end with the assassination of ‘Alí, the
Prophet's son-in-law and fourth successor, in 661. These four Caliphs
are known as the Orthodox (_al-Ráshidún_), because they trod faithfully
in the footsteps of the Prophet and ruled after his example in the holy
city of Medína, with the assistance of his leading Companions, who
constituted an informal Senate.

[Sidenote: The Ummayyad Caliphate (661-750 A.D.).]

The second division includes the Caliphs of the family of Umayya, from
the accession of Mu‘áwiya in 661 to the great battle of the Záb in 750,
when Marwán II, the last of his line, was defeated by the ‘Abbásids, who
claimed the Caliphate as next of kin to the Prophet. According to Moslem
notions the Umayyads were kings by right, Caliphs only by courtesy. They
had, as we shall see, no spiritual title, and little enough religion of
any sort. This dynasty, which had been raised and was upheld by the
Syrian Arabs, transferred the seat of government from Medína to

[Sidenote: The ‘Abbásid Caliphate (750-1258 A.D.).]

The third division is by far the longest and most important. Starting in
750 with the accession of Abu ’l-‘Abbás al-Saffáh, it presents an
unbroken series of thirty-seven Caliphs of the same House, and
culminates, after the lapse of half a millennium, in the sack of
Baghdád, their magnificent capital, by the Mongol Húlágú (January,
1258). The ‘Abbásids were no less despotic than the Umayyads, but in a
more enlightened fashion; for, while the latter had been purely Arab in
feeling, the ‘Abbásids owed their throne to the Persian nationalists,
and were imbued with Persian ideas, which introduced a new and fruitful
element into Moslem civilisation.

[Sidenote: Early Islamic literature.]

From our special point of view the Orthodox and Umayyad Caliphates,
which form the subject of the present chapter, are somewhat barren. The
simple life of the pagan Arabs found full expression in their poetry.
The many-sided life of the Moslems under ‘Abbásid rule may be studied in
a copious literature which exhibits all the characteristics of the age;
but of contemporary documents illustrating the intellectual history of
the early Islamic period comparatively little has been preserved, and
that little, being for the most part anti-Islamic in tendency, gives
only meagre information concerning what excites interest beyond anything
else--the religious movement, the rise of theology, and the origin of
those great parties and sects which emerge, at various stages of
development, in later literature.

[Sidenote: Unity of Church and State.]

Since the Moslem Church and State are essentially one, it is impossible
to treat of politics apart from religion, nor can religious phenomena be
understood without continual reference to political events. The
following brief sketch of the Orthodox Caliphate will show how
completely this unity was realised, and what far-reaching consequences
it had.

[Sidenote: Abú Bakr elected Caliph (June, 632 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Musaylima the Liar.]

That Muḥammad left no son was perhaps of less moment than his neglect
or refusal to nominate a successor. The Arabs were unfamiliar with the
hereditary descent of kingly power, while the idea had not yet dawned of
a Divine right resident in the Prophet's family. It was thoroughly in
accord with Arabian practice that the Moslem community should elect its
own leader, just as in heathen days the tribe chose its own chief. The
likeliest men--all three belonged to Quraysh--were Abú Bakr, whose
daughter ‘Á’isha had been Muḥammad's favourite wife, ‘Umar b.
al-Khaṭṭáb, and ‘Alí, Abú Ṭálib's son and Fáṭima's husband,
who was thus connected with the Prophet by blood as well as by marriage.
Abú Bakr was the eldest, he was supported by ‘Umar, and on him the
choice ultimately fell, though not without an ominous ebullition of
party strife. A man of simple tastes and unassuming demeanour, he had
earned the name _al-Ṣiddíq, _i.e._, the True, by his unquestioning
faith in the Prophet; naturally gentle and merciful, he stood firm when
the cause of Islam was at stake, and crushed with iron hand the revolt
which on the news of Muḥammad's death spread like wildfire through
Arabia. False prophets arose, and the Bedouins rallied round them, eager
to throw off the burden of tithes and prayers. In the centre of the
peninsula, the Banú Ḥanífa were led to battle by Musaylima, who
imitated the early style of the Koran with ludicrous effect, if we may
judge from the sayings ascribed to him, _e.g._, "The elephant, what is
the elephant, and who shall tell you what is the elephant? He has a poor
tail, and a long trunk: and is a trifling part of the creations of thy
God." Moslem tradition calls him the Liar (_al-Kadhdháb_), and
represents him as an obscene miracle-monger, which can hardly be the
whole truth. It is possible that he got some of his doctrines from
Christianity, as Professor Margoliouth has suggested,[344] but we know
too little about them to arrive at any conclusion. After a desperate
struggle Musaylima was defeated and slain by 'the Sword of Allah,'
Khálid b. Walíd. The Moslem arms were everywhere victorious. Arabia
bowed in sullen submission.

[Sidenote: Islam a world-religion.]

[Sidenote: Conquest of Persia and Syria (633-643 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Moslem toleration.]

Although Muir and other biographers of Muḥammad have argued that
Islam was originally designed for the Arabs alone, and made no claim to
universal acceptance, their assertion is contradicted by the unequivocal
testimony of the Koran itself. In one of the oldest Revelations (lxviii,
51-52), we read: "_It wanteth little but that the unbelievers dash thee
to the ground with their looks_ (of anger) _when they hear the Warning_
(_i.e._, the Koran); _and they say, 'He is assuredly mad': but it_ (the
Koran) _is no other than a_ WARNING UNTO ALL CREATURES" (_dhikrun li
’l-‘álamín_).[345] The time had now come when this splendid dream was to
be, in large measure, fulfilled. The great wars of conquest were
inspired by the Prophet's missionary zeal and justified by his example.
Pious duty coincided with reasons of state. "It was certainly good
policy to turn the recently subdued tribes of the wilderness towards an
external aim in which they might at once satisfy their lust for booty on
a grand scale, maintain their warlike feeling, and strengthen themselves
in their attachment to the new faith."[346] The story of their
achievements cannot be set down here. Suffice it to say that within
twelve years after the Prophet's death the Persian Empire had been
reduced to a tributary province, and Syria, together with Egypt, torn
away from Byzantine rule. It must not be supposed that the followers of
Zoroaster and Christ in these countries were forcibly converted to
Islam. Thousands embraced it of free will, impelled by various motives
which we have no space to enumerate; those who clung to the religion in
which they had been brought up secured protection and toleration by
payment of a capitation-tax (_jizya_).[347]

[Sidenote: The Caliph ‘Umar (634-644 A.D.).]

The tide of foreign conquest, which had scarce begun to flow before the
death of Abú Bakr, swept with amazing rapidity over Syria and Persia in
the Caliphate of ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭáb (634-644), and continued to
advance, though with diminished fury, under the Prophet's third
successor, ‘Uthmán. We may dwell for a little on the noble figure of
‘Umar, who was regarded by good Moslems in after times as an embodiment
of all the virtues which a Caliph ought to possess. Probably his
character has been idealised, but in any case the anecdotes related of
him give an admirable picture of the man and his age. Here are a few,
taken almost at random from the pages of Ṭabarí.

  [Sidenote: His simple manners.]

  [Sidenote: His sense of personal responsibility.]

  [Sidenote: The Caliph as a policeman.]

  [Sidenote: His strictness towards his own family.]

  [Sidenote: Instructions to his governors.]

  One said: "I saw ‘Umar coming to the Festival. He walked with bare
  feet, using both hands (for he was ambidextrous) to draw round him a
  red embroidered cloth. He towered above the people, as though he
  were on horseback."[348] A client of (the Caliph) ‘Uthmán b. ‘Affán
  relates that he mounted behind his patron and they rode together to
  the enclosure for the beasts which were delivered in payment of the
  poor-tax. It was an exceedingly hot day and the simoom was blowing
  fiercely. They saw a man clad only in a loin-cloth and a short cloak
  (_ridá_), in which he had wrapped his head, driving the camels into
  the enclosure. ‘Uthmán said to his companion, "Who is this, think
  you?" When they came up to him, behold, it was ‘Umar b.
  al-Khaṭṭáb. "By God," said ‘Uthmán, "this is _the strong, the
  trusty_."[349]--‘Umar used to go round the markets and recite the
  Koran and judge between disputants wherever he found them.--When
  Ka‘bu ’l-Aḥbár, a well-known Rabbin of Medína, asked how he could
  obtain access to the Commander of the Faithful,[350] he received
  this answer: "There is no door nor curtain to be passed; he performs
  the rites of prayer, then he takes his seat, and any one that wishes
  may speak to him."[351] ‘Umar said in one of his public orations,
  "By Him who sent Muḥammad with the truth, were a single camel to
  die of neglect on the bank of the Euphrates, I should fear lest God
  should call the family of al-Khaṭṭáb" (meaning himself) "to
  account therefor."[352]--"If I live," he is reported to have said on
  another occasion, "please God, I will assuredly spend a whole year
  in travelling among my subjects, for I know they have wants which
  are cut short ere they reach my ears: the governors do not bring the
  wants of the people before me, while the people themselves do not
  attain to me. So I will journey to Syria and remain there two
  months, then to Mesopotamia and remain there two months, then to
  Egypt and remain there two months, then to Baḥrayn and remain
  there two months, then to Kúfa and remain there two months, then to
  Baṣra and remain there two months; and by God, it will be a year
  well spent!"[353]--One night he came to the house of ‘Abdu
  ’l-Raḥmán b. ‘Awf and knocked at the door, which was opened by
  ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán's wife. "Do not enter," said she, "until I go
  back and sit in my place;" so he waited. Then she bade him come in,
  and on his asking, "Have you anything in the house?" she fetched him
  some food. Meanwhile ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán was standing by, engaged in
  prayer. "Be quick, man!" cried ‘Umar. ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán immediately
  pronounced the final salaam, and turning to the Caliph said: "O
  Commander of the Faithful, what has brought you here at this hour?"
  ‘Umar replied: "A party of travellers who alighted in the
  neighbourhood of the market: I was afraid that the thieves of Medína
  might fall upon them. Let us go and keep watch." So he set off with
  ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán, and when they reached the market-place they
  seated themselves on some high ground and began to converse.
  Presently they descried, far away, the light of a lamp. "Have not I
  forbidden lamps after bedtime?"[354] exclaimed the Caliph. They went
  to the spot and found a company drinking wine. "Begone," said ‘Umar
  to ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán; "I know him." Next morning he sent for the
  culprit and said, addressing him by name, "Last night you were
  drinking wine with your friends." "O Commander of the Faithful, how
  did you ascertain that?" "I saw it with my own eyes." "Has not God
  forbidden you to play the spy?" ‘Umar made no answer and pardoned
  his offence.[355]--When ‘Umar ascended the pulpit for the purpose of
  warning the people that they must not do something, he gathered his
  family and said to them: "I have forbidden the people to do
  so-and-so. Now, the people look at you as birds look at flesh, and I
  swear by God that if I find any one of you doing this thing, I will
  double the penalty against him."[356]--Whenever he appointed a
  governor he used to draw up in writing a certificate of investiture,
  which he caused to be witnessed by some of the Emigrants or Helpers.
  It contained the following instructions: That he must not ride on
  horseback, nor eat white bread, nor wear fine clothes, nor set up a
  door between himself and those who had aught to ask of him.[357]--It
  was ‘Umar's custom to go forth with his governors, on their
  appointment, to bid them farewell. "I have not appointed you," he
  would say, "over the people of Muḥammad (God bless him and grant
  him peace!) that you may drag them by their hair and scourge their
  skins, but in order that you may lead them in prayer and judge
  between them with right and divide (the public money) amongst them
  with equity. I have not made you lords of their skin and hair. Do
  not flog the Arabs lest you humiliate them, and do not keep them
  long on foreign service lest you tempt them to sedition, and do not
  neglect them lest you render them desperate. Confine yourselves to
  the Koran, write few Traditions of Muḥammad (God bless him and
  grant him peace!), and I am your ally." He used to permit
  retaliation against his governors. On receiving a complaint about
  any one of them he confronted him with the accuser, and punished him
  if his guilt were proved.[358]

[Sidenote: The Register of ‘Umar.]

It was ‘Umar who first made a Register (_Díwán_) of the Arabs in Islam
and entered them therein according to their tribes and assigned to them
their stipends. The following account of its institution is extracted
from the charming history entitled _al-Fakhrí_:--

  In the fifteenth year of the Hijra (636 A.D.) ‘Umar, who was then
  Caliph, seeing that the conquests proceeded without interruption and
  that the treasures of the Persian monarchs had been taken as spoil,
  and that load after load was being accumulated of gold and silver
  and precious jewels and splendid raiment, resolved to enrich the
  Moslems by distributing all this wealth amongst them; but he did not
  know how he should manage it. Now there was a Persian satrap
  (_marzubán_) at Medína who, when he saw ‘Umar's bewilderment, said
  to him, "O Commander of the Faithful, the Persian kings have a thing
  they call a _Díwán_, in which is kept the whole of their revenues
  and expenditures without exception; and therein those who receive
  stipends are arranged in classes, so that no confusion occurs."
  ‘Umar's attention was aroused. He bade the satrap describe it, and
  on comprehending its nature, he drew up the registers and assigned
  the stipends, appointing a specified allowance for every Moslem; and
  he allotted fixed sums to the wives of the Apostle (on whom be God's
  blessing and peace!) and to his concubines and next-of-kin, until he
  exhausted the money in hand. He did not lay up a store in the
  treasury. Some one came to him and said: "O Commander of the
  Faithful, you should have left something to provide for
  contingencies." ‘Umar rebuked him, saying, "The devil has put these
  words into your mouth. May God preserve me from their mischief! for
  it were a temptation to my successors. Come what may, I will provide
  naught except obedience to God and His Apostle. That is our
  provision, whereby we have gained that which we have gained." Then,
  in respect of the stipends, he deemed it right that precedence
  should be according to priority of conversion to Islam and of
  service rendered to the Apostle on his fields of battle.[359]

  [Sidenote: The aristocracy of Islam.]

  [Sidenote: "'Tis only noble to be good."]

  Affinity to Muḥammad was also considered. "By God," exclaimed
  ‘Umar, "we have not won superiority in this world, nor do we hope
  for recompense for our works from God hereafter, save through
  Muḥammad (God bless him and grant him peace!). He is our title to
  nobility, his tribe are the noblest of the Arabs, and after them
  those are the nobler that are nearer to him in blood. Truly, the
  Arabs are ennobled by God's Apostle. Peradventure some of them have
  many ancestors in common with him, and we ourselves are only removed
  by a few forbears from his line of descent, in which we accompany
  him back to Adam. Notwithstanding this, if the foreigners bring good
  works and we bring none, by God, they are nearer to Muḥammad on
  the day of Resurrection than we. Therefore let no man regard
  affinity, but let him work for that which is in God's hands to
  bestow. He that is retarded by his works will not be sped by his

It may be said of ‘Umar, not less appropriately than of Cromwell, that

    "cast the kingdoms old
  Into another mould;"

and he too justified the poet's maxim--

 "The same arts that did gain
  A power, must it maintain."

[Sidenote: Foundation of Baṣra and Kúfa (638 A.D.).]

Under the system which he organised Arabia, purged of infidels, became a
vast recruiting-ground for the standing armies of Islam: the Arabs in
the conquered territories formed an exclusive military class, living in
great camps and supported by revenues derived from the non-Muḥammadan
population. Out of such camps arose two cities destined to make their
mark in literary history--Baṣra (Bassora) on the delta of the Tigris and
Euphrates, and Kúfa, which was founded about the same time on the
western branch of the latter stream, not far from Ḥíra.

[Sidenote: Death of ‘Umar (644 A.D.)]

‘Umar was murdered by a Persian slave named Fírúz while leading the
prayers in the Great Mosque. With his death the military theocracy and
the palmy days of the Patriarchal Caliphate draw to a close. The broad
lines of his character appear in the anecdotes translated above, though
many details might be added to complete the picture. Simple and frugal;
doing his duty without fear or favour; energetic even to harshness, yet
capable of tenderness towards the weak; a severe judge of others and
especially of himself, he was a born ruler and every inch a man. Looking
back on the turmoils which followed his death one is inclined to agree
with the opinion of a saintly doctor who said, five centuries
afterwards, that "the good fortune of Islam was shrouded in the
grave-clothes of ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭáb."[361]

[Sidenote: ‘Uthmán elected Caliph (644 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: General disaffection.]

[Sidenote: ‘Uthmán murdered (656 A.D.).]

When the Meccan aristocrats accepted Islam, they only yielded to the
inevitable. They were now to have an opportunity of revenging
themselves. ‘Uthmán b. ‘Affán, who succeeded ‘Umar as Caliph, belonged
to a distinguished Meccan family, the Umayyads or descendants of Umayya,
which had always taken a leading part in the opposition to Muḥammad,
though ‘Uthmán himself was among the Prophet's first disciples. He was a
pious, well-meaning old man--an easy tool in the hands of his ambitious
kinsfolk. They soon climbed into all the most lucrative and important
offices and lived on the fat of the land, while too often their ungodly
behaviour gave point to the question whether these converts of the
eleventh hour were not still heathens at heart. Other causes contributed
to excite a general discontent. The rapid growth of luxury and
immorality in the Holy Cities as well as in the new settlements was an
eyesore to devout Moslems. The true Islamic aristocracy, the Companions
of the Prophet, headed by ‘Alí, Ṭalḥa, and Zubayr, strove to undermine
the rival nobility which threatened them with destruction. The factious
soldiery were ripe for revolt against Umayyad arrogance and greed.
Rebellion broke out, and finally the aged Caliph, after enduring a siege
of several weeks, was murdered in his own house. This event marks an
epoch in the history of the Arabs. The ensuing civil wars rent the unity
of Islam from top to bottom, and the wound has never healed.

[Sidenote: ‘Alí elected Caliph (656 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Character of ‘Alí.]

[Sidenote: His apotheosis.]

‘Alí, the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, who had hitherto remained in
the background, was now made Caliph. Although the suspicion that he was
in league with the murderers may be put aside, he showed culpable
weakness in leaving ‘Uthmán to his fate without an effort to save him.
But ‘Alí had almost every virtue except those of the ruler: energy,
decision, and foresight. He was a gallant warrior, a wise counsellor, a
true friend, and a generous foe. He excelled in poetry and in eloquence;
his verses and sayings are famous throughout the Muḥammadan East, though
few of them can be considered authentic. A fine spirit worthy to be
compared with Montrose and Bayard, he had no talent for the stern
realities of statecraft, and was overmatched by unscrupulous rivals who
knew that "war is a game of deceit." Thus his career was in one sense a
failure: his authority as Caliph was never admitted, while he lived, by
the whole community. On the other hand, he has exerted, down to the
present day, a posthumous influence only second to that of Muḥammad
himself. Within a century of his death he came to be regarded as the
Prophet's successor _jure divino_; as a blessed martyr, sinless and
infallible; and by some even as an incarnation of God. The ‘Alí of
Shí‘ite legend is not an historical figure glorified: rather does he
symbolise, in purely mythical fashion, the religious aspirations and
political aims of a large section of the Moslem world.

[Sidenote: ‘Alí against Mu‘áwiya.]

[Sidenote: Battle of Ṣiffín (657 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Arbitration.]

[Sidenote: The award.]

[Sidenote: The Khárijites revolt against ‘Alí.]

[Sidenote: Alí assassinated (661 A.D.).]

To return to our narrative. No sooner was ‘Alí proclaimed Caliph by the
victorious rebels than Mu‘áwiya b. Abí Sufyán, the governor of Syria,
raised the cry of vengeance for ‘Uthmán and refused to take the oath of
allegiance. As head of the Umayyad family, Mu‘áwiya might justly demand
that the murderers of his kinsman should be punished, but the contest
between him and ‘Alí was virtually for the Caliphate. A great battle was
fought at Ṣiffín, a village on the Euphrates. ‘Alí had well-nigh gained
the day when Mu‘áwiya bethought him of a stratagem. He ordered his
troops to fix Korans on the points of their lances and to shout, "Here
is the Book of God: let it decide between us!" The miserable trick
succeeded. In ‘Alí's army there were many pious fanatics to whom the
proposed arbitration by the Koran appealed with irresistible force. They
now sprang forward clamorously, threatening to betray their leader
unless he would submit his cause to the Book. Vainly did ‘Alí
remonstrate with the mutineers, and warn them of the trap into which
they were driving him, and this too at the moment when victory was
within their grasp. He had no choice but to yield and name as his umpire
a man of doubtful loyalty, Abú Músá al-Ash‘arí, one of the oldest
surviving Companions of the Prophet. Mu‘áwiya on his part named ‘Amr b.
al-‘Áṣ, whose cunning had prompted the decisive manœuvre. When the
umpires came forth to give judgment, Abú Músá rose and in accordance
with what had been arranged at the preliminary conference pronounced
that both ‘Alí and Mu‘áwiya should be deposed and that the people should
elect a proper Caliph in their stead. "Lo," said he, laying down his
sword, "even thus do I depose ‘Alí b. Abí Ṭálib." Then ‘Amr advanced and
spoke as follows: "O people! ye have heard the judgment of my colleague.
He has called you to witness that he deposes ‘Alí. Now I call you to
witness that I confirm Mu‘áwiya, even as I make fast this sword of
mine," and suiting the action to the word, he returned it to its sheath.
It is characteristic of Arabian notions of morality that this impudent
fraud was hailed by Mu‘áwiya's adherents as a diplomatic triumph which
gave him a colourable pretext for assuming the title of Caliph. Both
sides prepared to renew the struggle, but in the meanwhile ‘Alí found
his hands full nearer home. A numerous party among his troops, including
the same zealots who had forced arbitration upon him, now cast him off
because he had accepted it, fell out from the ranks, and raised the
standard of revolt. These 'Outgoers,' or Khárijites, as they were
called, maintained their theocratic principles with desperate courage,
and though often defeated took the field again and again. ‘Alí's plans
for recovering Syria were finally abandoned in 660, when he concluded
peace with Mu‘áwiya, and shortly afterwards he was struck down in the
Mosque at Kúfa, which he had made his capital, by Ibn Muljam, a
Khárijite conspirator.

With ‘Alí's fall our sketch of the Orthodox Caliphate may fitly end. It
was necessary to give some account of these years so vital in the
history of Islam, even at the risk of wearying the reader, who will
perhaps wish that less space were devoted to political affairs.

[Sidenote: The Umayyad dynasty.]

[Sidenote: Moslem tradition hostile to the Umayyads.]

[Sidenote: Mu‘áwiya's clemency.]

[Sidenote: His hours of study.]

The Umayyads came into power, but, except in Syria and Egypt, they ruled
solely by the sword. As descendants and representatives of the pagan
aristocracy, which strove with all its might to defeat Muḥammad, they
were usurpers in the eyes of the Moslem community which they claimed to
lead as his successors.[362] We shall see, a little further on, how this
opposition expressed itself in two great parties: the Shí‘ites or
followers of ‘Alí, and the radical sect of the Khárijites, who have been
mentioned above; and how it was gradually reinforced by the non-Arabian
Moslems until it overwhelmed the Umayyad Government and set up the
‘Abbásids in their place. In estimating the character of the Umayyads
one must bear in mind that the epitaph on the fallen dynasty was
composed by their enemies, and can no more be considered historically
truthful than the lurid picture which Tacitus has drawn of the Emperor
Tiberius. Because they kept the revolutionary forces in check with
ruthless severity, the Umayyads pass for bloodthirsty tyrants; whereas
the best of them at any rate were strong and singularly capable rulers,
bad Moslems and good men of the world, seldom cruel, plain livers if not
high thinkers; who upon the whole stand as much above the ‘Abbásids in
morality as below them in culture and intellect. Mu‘áwiya's clemency was
proverbial, though he too could be stern on occasion. When members of
the house of ‘Alí came to visit him at Damascus, which was now the
capital of the Muḥammadan Empire, he gave them honourable lodging and
entertainment and was anxious to do what they asked; but they (relates
the historian approvingly) used to address him in the rudest terms and
affront him in the vilest manner: sometimes he would answer them with a
jest, and another time he would feign not to hear, and he always
dismissed them with splendid presents and ample donations.[363] "I do
not employ my sword," he said, "when my whip suffices me, nor my whip
when my tongue suffices me; and were there but a single hair (of
friendship) between me and my subjects, I would not let it be
snapped."[364] After the business of the day he sought relaxation in
books. "He consecrated a third part of every night to the history of the
Arabs and their famous battles; the history of foreign peoples, their
kings, and their government; the biographies of monarchs, including
their wars and stratagems and methods of rule; and other matters
connected with Ancient History."[365]

[Sidenote: Ziyád ibn Abíhi.]

Mu‘áwiya's chief henchman was Ziyád, the son of Sumayya (Sumayya being
the name of his mother), or, as he is generally called, Ziyád ibn Abíhi,
_i.e._, 'Ziyád his father's son,' for none knew who was his sire, though
rumour pointed to Abú Sufyán; in which case Ziyád would have been
Mu‘áwiya's half-brother. Mu‘áwiya, instead of disavowing the scandalous
imputation, acknowledged him as such, and made him governor of Baṣra,
where he ruled the Eastern provinces with a rod of iron.

[Sidenote: Yazíd (680-683 A.D.).]

Mu‘áwiya was a crafty diplomatist--he has been well compared to
Richelieu--whose profound knowledge of human nature enabled him to gain
over men of moderate opinions in all the parties opposed to him. Events
were soon to prove the hollowness of this outward reconciliation. Yazíd,
who succeeded his father, was the son of Maysún, a Bedouin woman whom
Mu‘áwiya married before he rose to be Caliph. The luxury of Damascus had
no charm for her wild spirit, and she gave utterance to her feeling of
homesickness in melancholy verse:--

 "A tent with rustling breezes cool
  Delights me more than palace high,
  And more the cloak of simple wool
  Than robes in which I learned to sigh.

  The crust I ate beside my tent
  Was more than this fine bread to me;
  The wind's voice where the hill-path went
  Was more than tambourine can be.

  And more than purr of friendly cat
  I love the watch-dog's bark to hear;
  And more than any lubbard fat
  I love a Bedouin cavalier."[366]

[Sidenote: Ḥusayn marches on Kúfa.]

[Sidenote: Massacre of Ḥusayn and his followers at Karbalá (10th
Muḥarram, 61 A.H. = 10th October, 680 A.D.).]

Mu‘áwiya, annoyed by the contemptuous allusion to himself, took the dame
at her word. She returned to her own family, and Yazíd grew up as a
Bedouin, with the instincts and tastes which belong to the
Bedouins--love of pleasure, hatred of piety, and reckless disregard for
the laws of religion. The beginning of his reign was marked by an event
of which even now few Moslems can speak without a thrill of horror and
dismay. The facts are briefly these: In the autumn of the year 680
Ḥusayn, the son of ‘Alí, claiming to be the rightful Caliph in virtue of
his descent from the Prophet, quitted Mecca with his whole family and a
number of devoted friends, and set out for Kúfa, where he expected the
population, which was almost entirely Shí‘ite, to rally to his cause. It
was a foolhardy adventure. The poet Farazdaq, who knew the fickle temper
of his fellow-townsmen, told Ḥusayn that although their hearts were with
him, their swords would be with the Umayyads; but his warning was given
in vain. Meanwhile ‘Ubaydulláh b. Ziyád, the governor of Kúfa, having
overawed the insurgents in the city and beheaded their leader, Muslim b.
‘Aqíl, who was a cousin of Ḥusayn, sent a force of cavalry with orders
to bring the arch-rebel to a stand. Retreat was still open to him. But
his followers cried out that the blood of Muslim must be avenged, and
Ḥusayn could not hesitate. Turning northward along the Euphrates, he
encamped at Karbalá with his little band, which, including the women and
children, amounted to some two hundred souls. In this hopeless situation
he offered terms which might have been accepted if Shamir b. Dhi
’l-Jawshan, a name for ever infamous and accursed, had not persuaded
‘Ubaydulláh to insist on unconditional surrender. The demand was
refused, and Ḥusayn drew up his comrades--a handful of men and boys--for
battle against the host which surrounded them. All the harrowing details
invented by grief and passion can scarcely heighten the tragedy of the
closing scene. It would appear that the Umayyad officers themselves
shrank from the odium of a general massacre, and hoped to take the
Prophet's grandson alive. Shamir, however, had no such scruples. Chafing
at delay, he urged his soldiers to the assault. The unequal struggle was
soon over. Ḥusayn fell, pierced by an arrow, and his brave followers
were cut down beside him to the last man.

[Sidenote: Differing views of Muḥammadan and European writers.]

[Sidenote: The Umayyads judged by Islam.]

[Sidenote: Character of Yazíd.]

Muḥammadan tradition, which with rare exceptions is uniformly hostile to
the Umayyad dynasty, regards Ḥusayn as a martyr and Yazíd as his
murderer; while modern historians, for the most part, agree with Sir W.
Muir, who points out that Ḥusayn, "having yielded himself to a
treasonable, though impotent design upon the throne, was committing an
offence that endangered society and demanded swift suppression." This
was naturally the view of the party in power, and the reader must form
his own conclusion as to how far it justifies the action which they
took. For Moslems the question is decided by the relation of the
Umayyads to Islam. Violators of its laws and spurners of its ideals,
they could never be anything but tyrants; and being tyrants, they had no
right to slay believers who rose in arms against their usurped
authority. The so-called verdict of history, when we come to examine it,
is seen to be the verdict of religion, the judgment of theocratic Islam
on Arabian Imperialism. On this ground the Umayyads are justly
condemned, but it is well to remember that in Moslem eyes the
distinction between Church and State does not exist. Yazíd was a bad
Churchman: therefore he was a wicked tyrant; the one thing involves the
other. From our unprejudiced standpoint, he was an amiable prince who
inherited his mother's poetic talent, and infinitely preferred wine,
music, and sport to the drudgery of public affairs. The Syrian Arabs,
who recognised the Umayyads as legitimate, thought highly of him:
"Jucundissimus," says a Christian writer, "et cunctis nationibus regni
ejus subditis vir gratissime habitus, qui nullam unquam, ut omnibus
moris est, sibi regalis fastigii causa gloriam appetivit, sed communis
cum omnibus civiliter vixit."[367] He deplored the fate of the women and
children of Ḥusayn's family, treated them with every mark of respect,
and sent them to Medína, where their account of the tragedy added fresh
fuel to the hatred and indignation with which its authors were generally

The Umayyads had indeed ample cause to rue the day of Karbalá. It gave
the Shí‘ite faction a rallying-cry--"Vengeance for Ḥusayn!"--which was
taken up on all sides, and especially by the Persian _Mawálí_, or
Clients, who longed for deliverance from the Arab yoke. Their
amalgamation with the Shí‘a--a few years later they flocked in thousands
to the standard of Mukhtár--was an event of the utmost historical
importance, which will be discussed when we come to speak of the
Shí‘ites in particular.

[Sidenote: Medína and Mecca desecrated (682-3 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Rebellion of Mukhtár (685-6 A.D.).]

The slaughter of Ḥusayn does not complete the tale of Yazíd's
enormities. Medína, the Prophet's city, having expelled its Umayyad
governor, was sacked by a Syrian army, while Mecca itself, where
‘Abdulláh b. Zubayr had set up as rival Caliph, was besieged, and the
Ka‘ba laid in ruins. These outrages, shocking to Moslem sentiment,
kindled a flame of rebellion. Ḥusayn was avenged by Mukhtár, who seized
Kúfa and executed some three hundred of the guilty citizens, including
the miscreant Shamir. His troops defeated and slew ‘Ubaydulláh b. Ziyád,
but he himself was slain, not long afterwards, by Mus‘ab, the brother of
Ibn Zubayr, and seven thousand of his followers were massacred in cold
blood. On Yazíd's death (683) the Umayyad Empire threatened to fall to
pieces. As a contemporary poet sang--

 "Now loathed of all men is the Fury blind
  Which blazeth as a fire blown by the wind.
  They are split in sects: each province hath its own
  Commander of the Faithful, each its throne."[368]

[Sidenote: Civil war renewed.]

[Sidenote: Rivalry of Northern and Southern Arabs.]

Fierce dissensions broke out among the Syrian Arabs, the backbone of the
dynasty. The great tribal groups of Kalb and Qays, whose coalition had
hitherto maintained the Umayyads in power, fought on opposite sides at
Marj Ráhiṭ (684), the former for Marwán and the latter for Ibn Zubayr.
Marwán's victory secured the allegiance of Syria, but henceforth Qays
and Kalb were always at daggers drawn.[369] This was essentially a feud
between the Northern and the Southern Arabs--a feud which rapidly
extended and developed into a permanent racial enmity. They carried it
with them to the farthest ends of the world, so that, for example, after
the conquest of Spain precautions had to be taken against civil war by
providing that Northerners and Southerners should not settle in the same
districts. The literary history of this antagonism has been sketched by
Dr. Goldziher with his wonted erudition and acumen.[370] Satire was, of
course, the principal weapon of both sides. Here is a fragment by a
Northern poet which belongs to the Umayyad period:--

 "Negroes are better, when they name their sires,
  Than Qaḥṭán's sons,[371] the uncircumcisèd cowards:
  A folk whom thou mayst see, at war's outflame,
  More abject than a shoe to tread in baseness;
  Their women free to every lecher's lust,
  Their clients spoil for cavaliers and footmen."[372]

Thus the Arab nation was again torn asunder by the old tribal
pretensions which Muḥammad sought to abolish. That they ultimately
proved fatal to the Umayyads is no matter for surprise; the sorely
pressed dynasty was already tottering, its enemies were at its gates. By
good fortune it produced at this crisis an exceptionally able and
vigorous ruler, ‘Abdu ’l-Malik b. Marwán, who not only saved his house
from destruction, but re-established its supremacy and inaugurated a
more brilliant epoch than any that had gone before.

[Sidenote: ‘Abdu ’l-Malik and his successors.]

[Sidenote: Reforms of ‘Abdu ’l-Malik.]

[Sidenote: The writing of Arabic.]

[Sidenote: Ḥajjáj b. Yúsuf († 714 A.D.).]

‘Abdu ’l-Malik succeeded his father in 685, but required seven years of
hard fighting to make good his claim to the Caliphate. When his most
formidable rival, Ibn Zubayr, had fallen in battle (692), the eastern
provinces were still overrun by rebels, who offered a desperate
resistance to the governor of ‘Iráq, the iron-handed Ḥajjáj. But
enough of bloodshed. Peace also had her victories during the troubled
reign of ‘Abdu ’l-Malik and the calmer sway of his successors. Four of
the next five Caliphs were his own sons--Walíd (705-715), Sulaymán
(715-717), Yazíd II (720-724), and Hishám (724-743); the fifth, ‘Umar
II, was the son of his brother, ‘Abdu ’l-‘Azíz. For the greater part of
this time the Moslem lands enjoyed a well-earned interval of repose and
prosperity, which mitigated, though it could not undo, the frightful
devastation wrought by twenty years of almost continuous civil war. Many
reforms were introduced, some wholly political in character, while
others inspired by the same motives have, none the less, a direct
bearing on literary history. ‘Abdu ’l-Malik organised an excellent
postal service, by means of relays of horses, for the conveyance of
despatches and travellers; he substituted for the Byzantine and Persian
coins, which had hitherto been in general use, new gold and silver
pieces, on which be caused sentences from the Koran to be engraved; and
he made Arabic, instead of Greek or Persian, the official language of
financial administration. Steps were taken, moreover, to improve the
extremely defective Arabic script, and in this way to provide a sound
basis for the study and interpretation of the Koran as well as for the
collection of _ḥadíths_ or sayings of the Prophet, which form an
indispensable supplement thereto. The Arabic alphabet, as it was then
written, consisted entirely of consonants, so that, to give an
illustration from English, _bnd_ might denote _band_, _bend_, _bind_, or
_bond_; _crt_ might stand for _cart_, _carat_, _curt_, and so on. To an
Arab this ambiguity mattered little; far worse confusion arose from the
circumstance that many of the consonants themselves were exactly alike:
thus, _e.g._, it was possible to read the same combination of three
letters as _bnt_, _nbt_, _byt_, _tnb_, _ntb_, _nyb_, and in various
other ways. Considering the difficulties of the Arabic language, which
are so great that a European aided by scientific grammars and
unequivocal texts will often find himself puzzled even when he has
become tolerably familiar with it, one may imagine that the Koran was
virtually a sealed book to all but a few among the crowds of foreigners
who accepted Islam after the early conquests. ‘Abdu’l-Malik's viceroy
in ‘Iráq, the famous Ḥajjáj, who began life as a schoolmaster,
exerted himself to promote the use of vowel-marks (borrowed from the
Syriac) and of the diacritical points placed above or below similar
consonants. This extraordinary man deserves more than a passing mention.
A stern disciplinarian, who could be counted upon to do his duty without
any regard to public opinion, he was chosen by ‘Abdu ’l-Malik to besiege
Mecca, which Ibn Zubayr was holding as anti-Caliph. Ḥajjáj bombarded
the city, defeated the Pretender, and sent his head to Damascus. Two
years afterwards he became governor of ‘Iráq. Entering the Mosque at
Kúfa, he mounted the pulpit and introduced himself to the assembled
townsmen in these memorable words:--

[Sidenote: His service to literature.]

 "I am he who scattereth the darkness and climbeth o'er the summits.
  When I lift the turban from my face, ye will know me.[373]

"O people of Kúfa! I see heads that are ripe for cutting, and I am the
man to do it; and methinks, I see blood between the turbans and
beards."[374] The rest of his speech was in keeping with the
commencement. He used no idle threats, as the malcontents soon found
out. Rebellion, which had been rampant before his arrival, was rapidly
extinguished. "He restored order in ‘Iráq and subdued its people."[375]
For twenty years his despotic rule gave peace and security to the
Eastern world. Cruel he may have been, though the tales of his
bloodthirstiness are beyond doubt grossly exaggerated, but it should be
put to his credit that he established and maintained the settled
conditions which afford leisure for the cultivation of learning. Under
his protection the Koran and Traditions were diligently studied both in
Kúfa and Baṣra, where many Companions of the Prophet had made their
home: hence arose in Baṣra the science of Grammar, with which, as we
shall see in a subsequent page, the name of that city is peculiarly
associated. Ḥajjáj shared the literary tastes of his sovereign; he
admired the old poets and patronised the new; he was a master of terse
eloquence and plumed himself on his elegant Arabic style. The most hated
man of his time, he lives in history as the savage oppressor and butcher
of God-fearing Moslems. He served the Umayyads well and faithfully, and
when he died in 714 A.D. he left behind him nothing but his Koran, his
arms, and a few hundred pieces of silver.

[Sidenote: Walíd (705-715 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Moslem conquests in the East.]

[Sidenote: Conquest of Spain (711-713 A.D.).]

It was a common saying at Damascus that under Walíd people talked of
fine buildings, under Sulaymán of cookery and the fair sex, while in the
reign of ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Azíz the Koran and religion formed favourite
topics of conversation.[376] Of Walíd's passion for architecture we have
a splendid monument in the Great Mosque of Damascus (originally the
Cathedral of St. John), which is the principal sight of the city to this
day. He spoke Arabic very incorrectly, and though his father rebuked
him, observing that "in order to rule the Arabs one must be proficient
in their language," he could never learn to express himself with
propriety.[377] The unbroken peace which now prevailed within the Empire
enabled Walíd to resume the work of conquest. In the East his armies
invaded Transoxania, captured Bokhárá and Samarcand, and pushed forward
to the Chinese frontier. Another force crossed the Indus and penetrated
as far as Múltán, a renowned centre of pilgrimage in the Southern
Punjaub, which fell into the hands of the Moslems after a prolonged
siege. But the most brilliant advance, and the richest in its results,
was that in the extreme West, which decided the fate of Spain. Although
the Moslems had obtained a footing in Northern Africa some thirty years
before this time, their position was always precarious, until in 709
Músá b. Nuṣayr completely subjugated the Berbers, and extended not only
the dominion but also the faith of Islam to the Atlantic Ocean. Two
years later his freedman Ṭáriq crossed the straits and took possession
of the commanding height, called by the ancients Calpe, but henceforth
known as Jabal Ṭáriq (Gibraltar). Roderic, the last of the West Gothic
dynasty, gathered an army in defence of his kingdom, but there were
traitors in the camp, and, though he himself fought valiantly, their
defection turned the fortunes of the day. The king fled, and it was
never ascertained what became of him. Ṭáriq, meeting with feeble
resistance, marched rapidly on Toledo, while Músá, whose jealousy was
excited by the triumphal progress of his lieutenant, now joined in the
campaign, and, storming city after city, reached the Pyrenees. The
conquest of Spain, which is told by Moslem historians with many romantic
circumstances, marks the nearest approach that the Arabs ever made to
World-Empire. Their advance on French soil was finally hurled back by
Charles the Hammer's great victory at Tours (732 A.D.).

[Sidenote: ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Azíz (717-720 A.D.).]

Before taking leave of the Umayyads we must not forget to mention ‘Umar
b. ‘Abd al-‘Azíz, a ruler who stands out in singular contrast with his
predecessors, and whose brief reign is regarded by many Moslems as the
sole bright spot in a century of godless and bloodstained tyranny. There
had been nothing like it since the days of his illustrious namesake and
kinsman,[378] ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭáb, and we shall find nothing like it in
the future history of the Caliphate. Plato desired that every king
should be a philosopher: according to Muḥammadan theory every Caliph
ought to be a saint. ‘Umar satisfied these aspirations. When he came to
the throne the following dialogue is said to have occurred between him
and one of his favourites, Sálim al-Suddí:--

  ‘Umar: "Are you glad on account of my accession, or sorry?"

  Sálim: "I am glad for the people's sake, but sorry for yours."

  ‘Umar: "I fear that I have brought perdition upon my soul."

  Sálim: "If you are afraid, very good. I only fear that you may
            cease to be afraid."

  ‘Umar: "Give me a word of counsel."

  Sálim: "Our father Adam was driven forth from Paradise because
            of one sin."[379]

Poets and orators found no favour at his court, which was thronged by
divines and men of ascetic life.[380] He warned his governors that they
must either deal justly or go. He would not allow political
considerations to interfere with his ideal of righteousness, but, as
Wellhausen points out, he had practical ends in view: his piety made him
anxious for the common weal no less than for his own salvation. Whether
he administered the State successfully is a matter of dispute. It has
been generally supposed that his financial reforms were Utopian in
character and disastrous to the Exchequer.[381] However this may be, he
showed wisdom in seeking to bridge the menacing chasm between Islam and
the Imperial house. Thus, _e.g._, he did away with the custom which had
long prevailed of cursing ‘Alí from the pulpit at Friday prayers. The
policy of conciliation was tried too late, and for too short a space, to
be effective; but it was not entirely fruitless. When, on the overthrow
of the Umayyad dynasty, the tombs of the hated 'tyrants' were defiled
and their bodies disinterred, ‘Umar's grave alone was respected, and
Mas‘údí († 956 A.D.) tells us that in his time it was visited by crowds
of pilgrims.

[Sidenote: Hishám and Walíd II.]

The remaining Umayyads do not call for particular notice. Hishám ranks
as a statesman with Mu‘áwiya and ‘Abdu ’l-Malik: the great ‘Abbásid
Caliph, Manṣúr, is said to have admired and imitated his methods of
government.[382] Walíd II was an incorrigible libertine, whose songs
celebrating the forbidden delights of wine have much merit. The eminent
poet and freethinker, Abu ’l-‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí, quotes these verses by

  [Sidenote: Verses by Walíd II (743-4 A.D.).]

 "The Imám Walíd am I! In all my glory
  Of trailing robes I listen to soft lays.
  When proudly I sweep on towards her chamber,
  I care not who inveighs.

  There's no true joy but lending ear to music,
  Or wine that leaves one sunk in stupor dense.
  Houris in Paradise I do not look for:
  Does any man of sense?"

Let us now turn from the monarchs to their subjects.

[Sidenote: Political and religious movements of the period.]

In the first place we shall speak of the political and religious
parties, whose opposition to the Umayyad House gradually undermined its
influence and in the end brought about its fall. Some account will be
given of the ideas for which these parties fought and of the causes of
their discontent with the existing _régime_. Secondly, a few words must
be said of the theological and more purely religious sects--the
Mu‘tazilites, Murjites, and Ṣúfís; and, lastly, of the extant
literature, which is almost exclusively poetical, and its leading

[Sidenote: The Arabs of ‘Iráq.]

The opposition to the Umayyads was at first mainly a question of
politics. Mu‘áwiya's accession announced the triumph of Syria over
‘Iráq, and Damascus, instead of Kúfa, became the capital of the Empire.
As Wellhausen observes, "the most powerful risings against the Umayyads
proceeded from ‘Iráq, not from any special party, but from the whole
mass of the Arabs settled there, who were united in resenting the loss
of their independence (_Selbstherrlichkeit_) and in hating those into
whose hands it had passed."[384] At the same time these feelings took a
religious colour and identified themselves with the cause of Islam. The
new government fell lamentably short of the theocratic standard by which
it was judged. Therefore it was evil, and (according to the Moslem's
conception of duty) every right-thinking man must work for its

Among the myriads striving for this consummation, and so far making
common cause with each other, we can distinguish four principal classes.

[Sidenote: Parties opposed to the Umayyad government.]

(1) The religious Moslems, or Pietists, in general, who formed a wing of
the Orthodox Party.[385]

(2) The Khárijites, who may be described as the Puritans and extreme
Radicals of theocracy.

(3) The Shí‘ites, or partisans of ‘Alí and his House.

(4) The Non-Arabian Moslems, who were called _Mawálí_ (Clients).

[Sidenote: The Pietists.]

It is clear that the Pietists--including divines learned in the law,
reciters of the Koran, Companions of the Prophet and their
descendants--could not but abominate the secular authority which they
were now compelled to obey. The conviction that Might, in the shape of
the tyrant and his minions, trampled on Right as represented by the
Koran and the _Sunna_ (custom of Muḥammad) drove many into active
rebellion: five thousand are said to have perished in the sack of Medína
alone. Others again, like Ḥasan of Baṣra, filled with profound despair,
shut their eyes on the world, and gave themselves up to asceticism, a
tendency which had important consequences, as we shall see.

[Sidenote: The Khárijites.]

[Sidenote: Battle of Nahrawán (658 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Khárijite risings.]

When ‘Alí, on the field of Ṣiffín, consented that the claims of Mu‘áwiya
and himself to the Caliphate should be decided by arbitration, a large
section of his army accused him of having betrayed his trust. He, the
duly elected Caliph--so they argued--should have maintained the dignity
of his high office inviolate at all costs. On the homeward march the
malcontents, some twelve thousand in number, broke away and encamped by
themselves at Ḥarúrá, a village near Kúfa. Their cry was, "God alone can
decide" (_lá ḥukma illá lilláhi_): in these terms they protested against
the arbitration. ‘Alí endeavoured to win them back, but without any
lasting success. They elected a Caliph from among themselves, and
gathered at Nahrawán, four thousand strong. On the appearance of ‘Alí
with a vastly superior force many of the rebels dispersed, but the
remainder--about half--preferred to die for their faith. Nahrawán was to
the Khárijites what Karbalá afterwards became to the Shí‘ites, who from
this day were regarded by the former as their chief enemies. Frequent
Khárijite risings took place during the early Umayyad period, but the
movement reached its zenith in the years of confusion which followed
Yazíd's death. The Azraqites, so called after their leader, Náfi‘ b.
al-Azraq, overran ‘Iráq and Southern Persia, while another sect, the
Najdites, led by Najda b. ‘Ámir, reduced the greater part of Arabia to
submission. The insurgents held their ground for a long time against
‘Abdu ’l-Malik, and did not cease from troubling until the rebellion
headed by Shabíb was at last stamped out by Ḥajjáj in 697.

[Sidenote: Meaning of 'Khárijite.']

[Sidenote: Their political theories.]

It has been suggested that the name _Khárijí_ (plural, _Khawárij_)
refers to a passage in the Koran (iv, 101) where mention is made of
"those who go forth (_yakhruj_) from their homes as emigrants
(_muhájiran_) to God and His Messenger"; so that 'Khárijite' means 'one
who leaves his home among the unbelievers for God's sake,' and
corresponds to the term _Muhájir_, which was applied to the Meccan
converts who accompanied the Prophet in his migration to Medína.[386]
Another name by which they are often designated is likewise Koranic in
origin, viz., _Shurát_ (plural of _Shárin_): literally 'Sellers'--that
is to say, those who sell their lives and goods in return for
Paradise.[387] The Khárijites were mostly drawn from the Bedouin
soldiery who settled in Baṣra and Kúfa after the Persian wars. Civil
life wrought little change in their unruly temper. Far from
acknowledging the peculiar sanctity of a Qurayshite, they desired a
chief of their own blood whom they might obey, in Bedouin fashion, as
long as he did not abuse or exceed the powers conferred upon him.[388]
The mainspring of the movement, however, was pietistic, and can be
traced, as Wellhausen has shown, to the Koran-readers who made it a
matter of conscience that ‘Alí should avow his contrition for the fatal
error which their own temporary and deeply regretted infatuation had
forced him to commit. They cast off ‘Alí for the same reason which led
them to strike at ‘Uthman: in both cases they were maintaining the cause
of God against an unjust Caliph.[389] It is important to remember these
facts in view of the cardinal Khárijite doctrines (1) that every free
Arab was eligible as Caliph,[390] and (2) that an evil-doing Caliph must
be deposed and, if necessary, put to death. Mustawrid b. ‘Ullifa, the
Khárijite 'Commander of the Faithful,' wrote to Simák b. ‘Ubayd, the
governor of Ctesiphon, as follows: "We call you to the Book of God
Almighty and Glorious, and to the _Sunna_ (custom) of the Prophet--on
whom be peace!--and to the administration of Abú Bakr and ‘Umar--may God
be well pleased with them!--and to renounce ‘Uthmán and ‘Alí because
they corrupted the true religion and abandoned the authority of the
Book."[391] From this it appears that the Khárijite programme was simply
the old Islam of equality and fraternity, which had never been fully
realised and was now irretrievably ruined. Theoretically, all devout
Moslems shared in the desire for its restoration and condemned the
existing Government no less cordially than did the Khárijites. What
distinguished the latter party was the remorseless severity with which
they carried their principles into action. To them it was absolutely
vital that the Imám, or head of the community, should rule in the name
and according to the will of God: those who followed any other sealed
their doom in the next world: eternal salvation hung upon the choice of
a successor to the Prophet. Moslems who refused to execrate ‘Uthmán and
‘Alí were the worst of infidels; it was the duty of every true believer
to take part in the Holy War against such, and to kill them, together
with their wives and children. These atrocities recoiled upon the
insurgents, who soon found themselves in danger of extermination. Milder
counsels began to prevail. Thus the Ibáḍites (followers of ‘Abdulláh b.
Ibáḍ) held it lawful to live amongst the Moslems and mix with them on
terms of mutual tolerance. But compromise was in truth incompatible with
the _raison d'être_ of the Khárijites, namely, to establish the kingdom
of God upon the earth. This meant virtual anarchy: "their unbending
logic shattered every constitution which it set up." As ‘Alí remarked,
"they say, 'No government' (_lá imára_), but there must be a government,
good or bad."[392] Nevertheless, it was a noble ideal for which they
fought in pure devotion, having, unlike the other political parties, no
worldly interests to serve.

[Sidenote: Their religion.]

The same fierce spirit of fanaticism moulded their religious views,
which were gloomy and austere, as befitted the chosen few in an ungodly
world. Shahrastání, speaking of the original twelve thousand who
rebelled against ‘Alí, describes them as 'people of fasting and prayer'
(_ahlu ṣiyámin wa-ṣalátin_).[393] The Koran ruled their lives and
possessed their imaginations, so that the history of the early Church,
the persecutions, martyrdoms, and triumphs of the Faith became a
veritable drama which was being enacted by themselves. The fear of hell
kindled in them an inquisitorial zeal for righteousness. They
scrupulously examined their own belief as well as that of their
neighbours, and woe to him that was found wanting! A single false step
involved excommunication from the pale of Islam, and though the slip
might be condoned on proof of sincere repentance, any Moslem who had
once committed a mortal sin (_kabíra_) was held, by the stricter
Khárijites at least, to be inevitably damned with the infidels in
everlasting fire.

[Sidenote: Khárijite poetry.]

Much might be written, if space allowed, concerning the wars of the
Khárijites, their most famous chiefs, the points on which they
quarrelled, and the sects into which they split. Here we can only
attempt to illustrate the general character of the movement. We have
touched on its political and religious aspects, and shall now conclude
with some reference to its literary side. The Khárijites did not produce
a Milton or a Bunyan, but as Arabs of Bedouin stock they had a natural
gift of song, from which they could not be weaned; although, according
to the strict letter of the Koran, poetry is a devilish invention
improper for the pious Moslem to meddle with. But these are poems of a
different order from the pagan odes, and breathe a stern religious
enthusiasm that would have gladdened the Prophet's heart. Take, for
example, the following verses, which were made by a Khárijite in

 "'Tis time, O ye Sellers, for one who hath sold himself
  To God, that he should arise and saddle amain.
  Fools! in the land of miscreants will ye abide,
  To be hunted down, every man of you, and to be slain?
  O would that I were among you, armèd in mail,
  On the back of my stout-ribbed galloping war-horse again!
  And would that I were among you, fighting your foes,
  That me, first of all, they might give death's beaker to drain!
  It grieves me sore that ye are startled and chased
  Like beasts, while I cannot draw on the wretches profane
  My sword, nor see them scattered by noble knights
  Who never yield an inch of the ground they gain,
  But where the struggle is hottest, with keen blades hew
  Their strenuous way and deem 'twere base to refrain.
  Ay, it grieves me sore that ye are oppressed and wronged,
  While I must drag in anguish a captive's chain."

[Sidenote: Qaṭarí b. al-Fujá’a.]

Qaṭarí b. al-Fujá’a, the intrepid Khárijite leader who routed army
after army sent against him by Ḥajjáj, sang almost as well as he
fought. The verses rendered below are included in the _Ḥamása_[395]
and cited by Ibn Khallikán, who declares that they would make a brave
man of the greatest coward in the world. "I know of nothing on the
subject to be compared with them; they could only have proceeded from a
spirit that scorned disgrace and from a truly Arabian sentiment of

 "I say to my soul dismayed--
  'Courage! Thou canst not achieve,
  With praying, an hour of life
  Beyond the appointed term.
  Then courage on death's dark field,
  Courage! Impossible 'tis
  To live for ever and aye.
  Life is no hero's robe
  Of honour: the dastard vile
  Also doffs it at last.'"

[Sidenote: The Shí‘ites.]

[Sidenote: The theory of Divine Right.]

The murder of ‘Uthmán broke the Moslem community, which had hitherto
been undivided, into two _shí‘as_, or parties--one for ‘Alí and the
other for Mu‘áwiya. When the latter became Caliph he was no longer a
party leader, but head of the State, and his _shí‘a_ ceased to exist.
Henceforth 'the Shí‘a' _par excellence_ was the party of ‘Alí, which
regarded the House of the Prophet as the legitimate heirs to the
succession. Not content, however, with upholding ‘Alí, as the worthiest
of the Prophet's Companions and the duly elected Caliph, against his
rival, Mu‘áwiya, the bolder spirits took up an idea, which emerged about
this time, that the Caliphate belonged to ‘Alí and his descendants by
Divine right. Such is the distinctive doctrine of the Shí‘ites to the
present day. It is generally thought to have originated in Persia, where
the Sásánian kings used to assume the title of 'god' (Pahlaví _bagh_)
and were looked upon as successive incarnations of the Divine majesty.

  [Sidenote: Dozy's account of its origin.]

  "Although the Shí‘ites," says Dozy, "often found themselves under
  the direction of Arab leaders, who utilised them in order to gain
  some personal end, they were nevertheless a Persian sect at bottom;
  and it is precisely here that the difference most clearly showed
  itself between the Arab race, which loves liberty, and the Persian
  race, accustomed to slavish submission. For the Persians, the
  principle of electing the Prophet's successor was something unheard
  of and incomprehensible. The only principle which they recognised
  was that of inheritance, and since Muḥammad left no sons, they
  thought that his son-in-law ‘Alí should have succeeded him, and that
  the sovereignty was hereditary in his family. Consequently, all the
  Caliphs except ‘Alí--_i.e._, Abú Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthmán, as well
  as the Umayyads--were in their eyes usurpers to whom no obedience
  was due. The hatred which they felt for the Government and for Arab
  rule confirmed them in this opinion; at the same time they cast
  covetous looks on the wealth of their masters. Habituated, moreover,
  to see in their kings the descendants of the inferior divinities,
  they transferred this idolatrous veneration to ‘Alí and his
  posterity. Absolute obedience to the Imám of ‘Alí's House was in
  their eyes the most important duty; if that were fulfilled all the
  rest might be interpreted allegorically and violated without
  scruple. For them the Imám was everything; he was God made man. A
  servile submission accompanied by immorality was the basis of their

[Sidenote: The Saba’ites.]

[Sidenote: Doctrine of Ibn Sabá.]

Now, the Shí‘ite theory of Divine Right certainly harmonised with
Persian ideas, but was it also of Persian origin? On the contrary, it
seems first to have arisen among an obscure Arabian sect, the Saba’ites,
whose founder, ‘Abdulláh b. Sabá (properly, Saba’), was a native of
Ṣan‘á in Yemen, and is said to have been a Jew.[398] In ‘Uthmán's time
he turned Moslem and became, apparently, a travelling missionary. "He
went from place to place," says the historian, "seeking to lead the
Moslems into error."[399] We hear of him in the Ḥijáz, then in Baṣra and
Kúfa, then in Syria. Finally he settled in Egypt, where he preached the
doctrine of palingenesis (_raj‘a_). "It is strange indeed," he
exclaimed, "that any one should believe in the return of Jesus (as
Messias), and deny the return of Muḥammad, which God has announced (Kor.
xxviii, 85).[400] Furthermore, there are a thousand Prophets, every one
of whom has an executor (_waṣí_), and the executor of Muḥammad is
‘Alí.[401] Muḥammad is the last of the Prophets, and ‘Alí is the last of
the executors." Ibn Sabá, therefore, regarded Abú Bakr, ‘Umar, and
‘Uthmán as usurpers. He set on foot a widespread conspiracy in favour of
‘Alí, and carried on a secret correspondence with the disaffected in
various provinces of the Empire.[402] According to Shahrastání, he was
banished by ‘Alí for saying, "Thou art thou" (_anta anta_), _i.e._,
"Thou art God."[403] This refers to the doctrine taught by Ibn Sabá and
the extreme Shí‘ites (_Ghulát_) who derive from him, that the Divine
Spirit which dwells in every prophet and passes successively from one to
another was transfused, at Muḥammad's death, into ‘Alí, and from ‘Alí
into his descendants who succeeded him in the Imámate. The Saba’ites
also held that the Imám might suffer a temporary occultation (_ghayba_),
but that one day he would return and fill the earth with justice. They
believed the millennium to be near at hand, so that the number of Imáms
was at first limited to four. Thus the poet Kuthayyir († 723 A.D.)

 "Four complete are the Imáms
 ‘Alí and his three good sons,
  One was faithful and devout;
  One, until with waving flags
  Dwells on Mount Raḍwá, concealed:
  of Quraysh, the lords of Right:
  each of them a shining light.
  Karbalá hid one from sight;
  his horsemen he shall lead to fight,
  honey he drinks and water bright."[404]

[Sidenote: The Mahdí or Messiah.]

The Messianic idea is not peculiar to the Shí‘ites, but was brought into
Islam at an early period by Jewish and Christian converts, and soon
established itself as a part of Muḥammadan belief. Traditions ascribed
to the Prophet began to circulate, declaring that the approach of the
Last Judgment would be heralded by a time of tumult and confusion, by
the return of Jesus, who would slay the Antichrist (_Dajjál_), and
finally by the coming of the Mahdí, _i.e._, 'the God-guided one,' who
would fill the earth with justice even as it was then filled with
violence and iniquity. This expectation of a Deliverer descended from
the Prophet runs through the whole history of the Shí‘a. As we have
seen, their supreme religious chiefs were the Imáms of ‘Alí's House,
each of whom transmitted his authority to his successor. In the course
of time disputes arose as to the succession. One sect acknowledged only
seven legitimate Imáms, while another carried the number to twelve. The
last Imám of the 'Seveners' (_al-Sab‘iyya_), who are commonly called
Ismá‘ílís, was Muḥammad b. Ismá‘íl, and of the 'Twelvers'
(_al-Ithná-‘ashariyya_) Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan.[405] Both those personages
vanished mysteriously about 770 and 870 A.D., and their respective
followers, refusing to believe that they were dead, asserted that their
Imám had withdrawn himself for a season from mortal sight, but that he
would surely return at last as the promised Mahdí. It would take a long
while to enumerate all the pretenders and fanatics who have claimed this
title.[406] Two of them founded the Fáṭimid and Almohade dynasties,
which we shall mention elsewhere, but they generally died on the gibbet
or the battle-field. The ideal which they, so to speak, incarnated did
not perish with them. Mahdiism, the faith in a divinely appointed
revolution which will sweep away the powers of evil and usher in a
Golden Age of justice and truth such as the world has never known, is a
present and inspiring fact which deserves to be well weighed by those
who doubt the possibility of an Islamic Reformation.

[Sidenote: Shí‘ite gatherings at Karbalá.]

The Shí‘a began as a political faction, but it could not remain so for
any length of time, because in Islam politics always tend to take
religious ground, just as the successful religious reformer invariably
becomes a ruler. The Saba’ites furnished the Shí‘ite movement with a
theological basis; and the massacre of Ḥusayn, followed by Mukhtár's
rebellion, supplied the indispensable element of enthusiasm. Within a
few years after the death of Ḥusayn his grave at Karbalá was already a
place of pilgrimage for the Shí‘ites. When the 'Penitents'
(_al-Tawwábún_) revolted in 684 they repaired thither and lifted their
voices simultaneously in a loud wail, and wept, and prayed God that He
would forgive them for having deserted the Prophet's grandson in his
hour of need. "O God!" exclaimed their chief, "have mercy on Ḥusayn, the
Martyr and the son of a Martyr, the Mahdí and the son of a Mahdí, the
Ṣiddíq and the son of a Ṣiddíq![407] O God! we bear witness that we
follow their religion and their path, and that we are the foes of their
slayers and the friends of those who love them."[408] Here is the germ
of the _ta‘ziyas_, or Passion Plays, which are acted every year on the
10th of Muḥarram, wherever Shí‘ites are to be found.

[Sidenote: Mukhtár.]

But the Moses of the Shí‘a, the man who showed them the way to victory
although he did not lead them to it, is undoubtedly Mukhtár. He came
forward in the name of ‘Alí's son, Muḥammad, generally known as Ibnu
’l-Ḥanafiyya after his mother. Thus he gained the support of the Arabian
Shí‘ites, properly so called, who were devoted to ‘Alí and his House,
and laid no stress upon the circumstance of descent from the Prophet,
whereas the Persian adherents of the Shí‘a made it a vital matter, and
held accordingly that only the sons of ‘Alí by his wife Fáṭima were
fully qualified Imáms. Raising the cry of vengeance for Ḥusayn, Mukhtár
carried this party also along with him. In 686 he found himself master
of Kúfa. Neither the result of his triumph nor the rapid overthrow of
his power concerns us here, but something must be said about the aims
and character of the movement which he headed.

  [Sidenote: The _Mawálí_ of Kúfa.]

  "More than half the population of Kúfa was composed of _Mawálí_
  (Clients), who monopolised handicraft, trade, and commerce. They
  were mostly Persians in race and language; they had come to Kúfa as
  prisoners of war and had there passed over to Islam: then they were
  manumitted by their owners and received as clients into the Arab
  tribes, so that they now occupied an ambiguous position
  (_Zwitterstellung_), being no longer slaves, but still very
  dependent on their patrons; needing their protection, bound to their
  service, and forming their retinue in peace and war. In these
  _Mawálí_, who were entitled by virtue of Islam to more than the
  'dominant Arabism' allowed them, the hope now dawned of freeing
  themselves from clientship and of rising to full and direct
  participation in the Moslem state."[409]

[Sidenote: Mukhtár and the _Mawálí_.]

[Sidenote: Persian influence on the Shí‘a.]

Mukhtár, though himself an Arab of noble family, trusted the _Mawálí_
and treated them as equals, a proceeding which was bitterly resented by
the privileged class. "You have taken away our clients who are the booty
which God bestowed upon us together with this country. We emancipated
them, hoping to receive the Divine recompense and reward, but you would
not rest until you made them sharers in our booty."[410] Mukhtár was
only giving the _Mawálí_ their due--they were Moslems and had the right,
as such, to a share in the revenues. To the haughty Arabs, however, it
appeared a monstrous thing that the despised foreigners should be placed
on the same level with themselves. Thus Mukhtár was thrown into the arms
of the _Mawálí_, and the movement now became not so much anti-Umayyad as
anti-Arabian. Here is the turning-point in the history of the Shí‘a. Its
ranks were swelled by thousands of Persians imbued with the extreme
doctrines of the Saba’ites which have been sketched above, and animated
by the intense hatred of a downtrodden people towards their conquerors
and oppressors. Consequently the Shí‘a assumed a religious and
enthusiastic character, and struck out a new path which led it farther
and farther from the orthodox creed. The doctrine of 'Interpretation'
(_Ta’wíl_) opened the door to all sorts of extravagant ideas. One of the
principal Shí‘ite sects, the Háshimiyya, held that "there is an esoteric
side to everything external, a spirit to every form, a hidden meaning
(_ta’wíl_) to every revelation, and to every similitude in this world a
corresponding reality in the other world; that ‘Alí united in his own
person the knowledge of all mysteries and communicated it to his son
Muḥammad Ibnu ’l-Ḥanafiyya, who passed it on to his son Abú Háshim; and
that the possessor of this universal knowledge is the true Imám."[411]
So, without ceasing to be Moslems in name, the Shí‘ites transmuted Islam
into whatever shape they pleased by virtue of a mystical interpretation
based on the infallible authority of the House of Muḥammad, and out of
the ruins of a political party there gradually arose a great religious
organisation in which men of the most diverse opinions could work
together for deliverance from the Umayyad yoke. The first step towards
this development was made by Mukhtár, a versatile genius who seems to
have combined the parts of political adventurer, social reformer,
prophet, and charlatan. He was crushed and his Persian allies were
decimated, but the seed which he had sown bore an abundant harvest when,
sixty years later, Abú Muslim unfurled the black standard of the
‘Abbásids in Khurásán.

[Sidenote: The oldest theological sects.]

Concerning the origin of the oldest theological sects in Islam, the
Murjites and the Mu‘tazilites, we possess too little contemporary
evidence to make a positive statement. It is probable that the latter at
any rate arose, as Von Kremer has suggested, under the influence of
Greek theologians, especially John of Damascus and his pupil, Theodore
Abucara (Abú Qurra), the Bishop of Ḥarrán.[412] Christians were freely
admitted to the Umayyad court. The Christian al-Akhṭal was
poet-laureate, while many of his co-religionists held high offices in
the Government. Moslems and Christians exchanged ideas in friendly
discussion or controversially. Armed with the hair-splitting weapons of
Byzantine theology, which they soon learned to use only too well, the
Arabs proceeded to try their edge on the dogmas of Islam.

[Sidenote: The Murjites.]

The leading article of the Murjite creed was this, that no one who
professed to believe in the One God could be declared an infidel,
whatever sins he might commit, until God Himself had given judgment
against him.[413] The Murjites were so called because they deferred
(_arja’a_ = to defer) their decision in such cases and left the sinner's
fate in suspense, so long as it was doubtful.[414] This principle they
applied in different ways. For example, they refused to condemn ‘Alí and
‘Uthmán outright, as the Khárijites did. "Both ‘Alí and ‘Uthmán," they
said, "were servants of God, and by God alone must they be judged; it is
not for us to pronounce either of them an infidel, notwithstanding that
they rent the Moslem people asunder."[415] On the other hand, the
Murjites equally rejected the pretensions made by the Shí‘ites on behalf
of ‘Alí and by the Umayyads on behalf of Mu‘áwiya. For the most part
they maintained a neutral attitude towards the Umayyad Government: they
were passive resisters, content, as Wellhausen puts it, "to stand up for
the impersonal Law." Sometimes, however, they turned the principle of
toleration against their rulers. Thus Ḥárith b. Surayj and other Arabian
Murjites joined the oppressed _Mawálí_ of Khurásán to whom the
Government denied those rights which they had acquired by
conversion.[416] According to the Murjite view, these Persians, having
professed Islam, should no longer be treated as tax-paying infidels. The
Murjites brought the same tolerant spirit into religion. They set faith
above works, emphasised the love and goodness of God, and held that no
Moslem would be damned everlastingly. Some, like Jahm b. Ṣafwán, went so
far as to declare that faith (_ímán_) was merely an inward conviction: a
man might openly profess Christianity or Judaism or any form of unbelief
without ceasing to be a good Moslem, provided only that he acknowledged
Allah with his heart.[417] The moderate school found their most
illustrious representative in Abú Ḥanífa († 767 A.D.), and through this
great divine--whose followers to-day are counted by millions--their
liberal doctrines were diffused and perpetuated.

[Sidenote: The Mu‘tazilites.]

During the Umayyad period Baṣra was the intellectual capital of Islam,
and in that city we find the first traces of a sect which maintained the
principle that thought must be free in the search for truth. The origin
of the Mu‘tazilites (_al-Mu‘tazila_), as they are generally called,
takes us back to the famous divine and ascetic, Ḥasan of Baṣra (†728
A.D.). One day he was asked to give his opinion on a point regarding
which the Murjites and the Khárijites held opposite views, namely,
whether those who had committed a great sin should be deemed believers
or unbelievers. While Ḥasan was considering the question, one of his
pupils, Wáṣil b. ‘Aṭá (according to another tradition, ‘Amr b. ‘Ubayd)
replied that such persons were neither believers nor unbelievers, but
should be ranked in an intermediate state. He then turned aside and
began to explain the grounds of his assertion to a group which gathered
about him in a different part of the mosque. Ḥasan said: "Wáṣil has
separated himself from us" (_i‘tazala ‘anná_); and on this account the
followers of Wáṣil were named 'Mu‘tazilites,' _i.e._, Schismatics.
Although the story may not be literally true, it is probably safe to
assume that the new sect originated in Baṣra among the pupils of
Ḥasan,[418] who was the life and soul of the religious movement of the
first century A.H. The Mu‘tazilite heresy, in its earliest form, is
connected with the doctrine of Predestination. On this subject the Koran
speaks with two voices. Muḥammad was anything but a logically exact and
consistent thinker. He was guided by the impulse of the moment, and
neither he nor his hearers perceived, as later Moslems did, that the
language of the Koran is often contradictory. Thus in the present
instance texts which imply the moral responsibility of man for his
actions--_e.g._, "_Every soul is in pledge_ (with God) _for what it hath
wrought_"[419]; "_Whoso does good benefits himself, and whoso does evil
does it against himself_"[420]--stand side by side with others which
declare that God leads men aright or astray, as He pleases; that the
hearts of the wicked are sealed and their ears made deaf to the truth;
and that they are certainly doomed to perdition. This fatalistic view
prevailed in the first century of Islam, and the dogma of Predestination
was almost universally accepted. Ibn Qutayba, however, mentions the
names of twenty-seven persons who held the opinion that men's actions
are free.[421] Two among them, Ma‘bad al-Juhaní and Abú Marwán Ghaylán,
who were put to death by ‘Abdu ’l-Malik and his son Hishám, do not
appear to have been condemned as heretics, but rather as enemies of the
Umayyad Government.[422] The real founder of the Mu‘tazilites was Wáṣil
b. ‘Aṭá († 748 A.D.),[423] who added a second cardinal doctrine to that
of free-will. He denied the existence of the Divine attributes--Power,
Wisdom, Life, &c.--on the ground that such qualities, if conceived as
eternal, would destroy the Unity of God. Hence the Mu‘tazilites called
themselves 'the partisans of Unity and Justice' (_Ahlu’l-tawḥíd
wa-’l-‘adl_): of Unity for the reason which has been explained, and of
Justice, because they held that God was not the author of evil and that
He would not punish His creatures except for actions within their
control. The further development of these Rationalistic ideas belongs to
the ‘Abbásid period and will be discussed in a subsequent chapter.

[Sidenote: Growth of asceticism.]

[Sidenote: Ḥasan of Baṣra.]

The founder of Islam had too much human nature and common sense to
demand of his countrymen such mortifying austerities as were practised
by the Jewish Essenes and the Christian monks. His religion was not
without ascetic features, _e.g._, the Fast of Ramaḍán, the prohibition
of wine, and the ordinance of the pilgrimage, but these can scarcely be
called unreasonable. On the other hand Muḥammad condemned celibacy not
only by his personal example but also by precept. "There is no monkery
in Islam," he is reported to have said, and there was in fact nothing of
the kind for more than a century after his death. During this time,
however, asceticism made great strides. It was the inevitable outcome of
the Muḥammadan conception of Allah, in which the attributes of mercy and
love are overshadowed by those of majesty, awe, and vengeance. The
terrors of Judgment Day so powerfully described in the Koran were
realised with an intensity of conviction which it is difficult for us to
imagine. As Goldziher has observed, an exaggerated consciousness of sin
and the dread of Divine punishment gave the first impulse to Moslem
asceticism. Thus we read that Tamím al-Dárí, one of the Prophet's
Companions, who was formerly a Christian, passed the whole night until
daybreak, repeating a single verse of the Koran (xlv, 20)--"_Do those
who work evil think that We shall make them even as those who believe
and do good, so that their life and death shall be equal? Ill do they
judge!_"[424] Abu ’l-Dardá, another of the Companions, used to say: "If
ye knew what ye shall see after death, ye would not eat food nor drink
water from appetite, and I wish that I were a tree which is lopped and
then devoured."[425] There were many who shared these views, and their
determination to renounce the world and to live solely for God was
strengthened by their disgust with a tyrannical and impious Government,
and by the almost uninterrupted spectacle of bloodshed, rapine, and
civil war. Ḥasan of Baṣra († 728)--we have already met him in connection
with the Mu‘tazilites--is an outstanding figure in this early ascetic
movement, which proceeded on orthodox lines.[426] Fear of God seized on
him so mightily that, in the words of his biographer, "it seemed as
though Hell-fire had been created for him alone."[427] All who looked on
his face thought that he must have been recently overtaken by some great
calamity.[428] One day a friend saw him weeping and asked him the cause.
"I weep," he replied, "for fear that I have done something unwittingly
and unintentionally, or committed some fault, or spoken some word which
is unpleasing to God: then He may have said, 'Begone, for now thou hast
no more honour in My court, and henceforth I will not receive anything
from thee.'"[429] Al-Mubarrad relates that two monks, coming from Syria,
entered Baṣra and looked at Ḥasan, whereupon one said to the other, "Let
us turn aside to visit this man, whose way of life appears like that of
the Messiah." So they went, and they found him supporting his chin on
the palm of his hand, while he was saying--"How I marvel at those who
have been ordered to lay in a stock of provisions and have been summoned
to set out on a journey, and yet the foremost of them stays for the
hindermost! Would that I knew what they are waiting for!"[430] The
following utterances are characteristic:--

  "God hath made fasting a hippodrome (place or time of training) for
  His servants, that they may race towards obedience to Him.[431] Some
  come in first and win the prize, while others are left behind and
  return disappointed; and by my life, if the lid were removed, the
  well-doer would be diverted by his well-doing, and the evildoer by
  his evil-doing, from wearing new garments or from anointing his

  "You meet one of them with white skin and delicate complexion,
  speeding along the path of vanity: he shaketh his hips and clappeth
  his sides and saith, 'Here am I, recognise me!' Yes, we recognise
  thee, and thou art hateful to God and hateful to good men."[433]

  "The bounties of God are too numerous to be acknowledged unless with
  His help, and the sins of Man are too numerous for him to escape
  therefrom unless God pardon them."[434]

  "The wonder is not how the lost were lost, but how the saved were

  "Cleanse ye these hearts (by meditation and remembrance of God), for
  they are quick to rust; and restrain ye these souls, for they desire
  eagerly, and if ye restrain them not, they will drag you to an evil

[Sidenote: Ḥasan of Baṣra not a genuine Ṣúfí.]

The Ṣúfís, concerning whom we shall say a few words presently, claim
Ḥasan as one of themselves, and with justice in so far as he attached
importance to spiritual righteousness, and was not satisfied with merely
external acts of devotion. "A grain of genuine piety," he declared, "is
better than a thousandfold weight of fasting and prayer."[437] But
although some of his sayings which are recorded in the later biographies
lend colour to the fiction that he was a full-blown Ṣúfí, there can be
no doubt that his mysticism--if it deserves that name--was of the most
moderate type, entirely lacking the glow and exaltation which we find in
the saintly woman, Rábi‘a al-‘Adawiyya, with whom legend associates

[Sidenote: The derivation of 'Ṣúfí.']

[Sidenote: The beginnings of Ṣúfiism.]

The origin of the name 'Ṣúfí' is explained by the Ṣúfís themselves in
many different ways, but of the derivations which have been proposed
only three possess any claim to consideration, viz., those which connect
it with σοφός (wise) or with _ṣafá_ (purity) or with _ṣúf_ (wool).[439]
The first two are inadmissible on linguistic grounds, into which
we need not enter, though it may be remarked that the derivation
from _ṣafá_ is consecrated by the authority of the Ṣúfí Saints, and is
generally accepted in the East.[440] The reason for this preference
appears in such definitions as "The Ṣúfí is he who keeps his heart pure
(_ṣáfí_) with God,"[441] "Ṣúfiism is 'the being chosen for purity'
(_iṣṭifá_): whoever is thus chosen and made pure from all except God is
the true Ṣúfí."[442] Understood in this sense, the word had a lofty
significance which commended it to the elect. Nevertheless it can be
tracked to a quite humble source. Woollen garments were frequently worn
by men of ascetic life in the early times of Islam in order (as Ibn
Khaldún says) that they might distinguish themselves from those who
affected a more luxurious fashion of dress. Hence the name 'Ṣúfí,' which
denotes in the first instance an ascetic clad in wool (_ṣúf_), just as
the Capuchins owed their designation to the hood (_cappuccio_) which
they wore. According to Qushayrí, the term came into common use before
the end of the second century of the Hijra (= 815 A.D.). By this time,
however, the ascetic movement in Islam had to some extent assumed a new
character, and the meaning of 'Ṣúfí,' if the word already existed, must
have undergone a corresponding change. It seems to me not unlikely that
the epithet in question marks the point of departure from orthodox
asceticism and that, as Jámí states, it was first applied to Abú Háshim
of Kúfa (_ob._ before 800 _A.D._), who founded a monastery (_khánaqáh_)
for Ṣúfís at Ramla in Palestine. Be that as it may, the distinction
between asceticism (_zuhd_) and Ṣúfiism--a distinction which answers,
broadly speaking, to the _via purgativa_ and the _via illuminativa_ of
Western mediæval mysticism--begins to show itself before the close of
the Umayyad period, and rapidly develops in the early ‘Abbásid age under
the influence of foreign ideas and, in particular, of Greek philosophy.
Leaving this later development to be discussed in a subsequent chapter,
we shall now briefly consider the origin of Ṣúfiism properly so called
and the first manifestation of the peculiar tendencies on which it is

As regards its origin, we cannot do better than quote the observations
with which Ibn Khaldún († 1406 A.D.) introduces the chapter on Ṣúfiism
in the Prolegomena to his great historical work:--

  [Sidenote: Ibn Khaldún's account of the origin of Ṣúfiism.]

  "This is one of the religious sciences which were born in Islam. The
  way of the Ṣúfís was regarded by the ancient Moslems and their
  illustrious men--the Companions of the Prophet (_al-Ṣaḥába_),
  the Successors (_al-Tábi‘ún_), and the generation which came after
  them--as the way of Truth and Salvation. To be assiduous in piety,
  to give up all else for God's sake, to turn away from worldly gauds
  and vanities, to renounce pleasure, wealth, and power, which are the
  general objects of human ambition, to abandon society and to lead in
  seclusion a life devoted solely to the service of God--these were
  the fundamental principles of Ṣúfiism which prevailed among the
  Companions and the Moslems of old time. When, however, in the second
  generation and afterwards worldly tastes became widely spread, and
  men no longer shrank from such contamination, those who made piety
  their aim were distinguished by the title of _Ṣúfís_ or
  _Mutaṣawwifa_ (aspirants to Ṣúfiism).[443]

[Sidenote: The earliest form of Ṣúfiism.]

From this it is clear that Ṣúfiism, if not originally identical with
the ascetic revolt of which, as we have seen, Ḥasan of Baṣra was
the most conspicuous representative, at any rate arose out of that
movement. It was not a speculative system, like the Mu‘tazilite heresy,
but a practical religion and rule of life. "We derived Ṣúfiism," said
Junayd, "from fasting and taking leave of the world and breaking
familiar ties and renouncing what men deem good; not from disputation"
(_qíl wa-qál_).[444] The oldest Ṣúfís were ascetics and hermits, but
they were also something more. They brought out the spiritual and
mystical element in Islam, or brought it in, if they did not find it
there already.

[Sidenote: The difference between asceticism and Ṣúfiism.]

"Ṣúfiism," says Suhrawardí,[445] "is neither 'poverty' (_faqr_) nor
asceticism (_zuhd_), but a term which comprehends the ideas of both,
together with something besides. Without these superadded qualities a
man is not a Ṣúfí, though he may be an ascetic (_záhid_) or a fakír
(_faqír_). It is said that, notwithstanding the excellence of 'poverty,'
the end thereof is only the beginning of Ṣúfiism." A little further
on he explains the difference thus:--

  "The fakír holds fast to his 'poverty' and is profoundly convinced
  of its superior merit. He prefers it to riches because he longs for
  the Divine recompense of which his faith assures him ... and whenever
  he contemplates the everlasting reward, he abstains from the
  fleeting joys of this world and embraces poverty and indigence and
  fears that if he should cease to be 'poor' he will lose both the
  merit and the prize. Now this is absolutely unsound according to the
  doctrine of the Ṣúfís, because he hopes for recompense and
  renounces the world on that account, whereas the Ṣúfí does not
  renounce it for the sake of promised rewards but, on the contrary,
  for the sake of present 'states,' for he is the 'son of his
  time.'...[446] The theory that 'poverty' is the foundation of
  Ṣúfiism signifies that the diverse stages of Ṣúfiism are
  reached by the road of 'poverty'; it does not imply that the Ṣúfí
  is essentially a fakír."

[Sidenote: The early Ṣúfís.]

The keynote of Ṣúfiism is disinterested, selfless devotion, in a
word, Love. Though not wholly strange, this idea was very far from being
familiar to pious Muḥammadans, who were more deeply impressed by the
power and vengeance of God than by His goodness and mercy. The Koran
generally represents Allah as a stern, unapproachable despot, requiring
utter submission to His arbitrary will, but infinitely unconcerned with
human feelings and aspirations. Such a Being could not satisfy the
religious instinct, and the whole history of Ṣúfiism is a protest
against the unnatural divorce between God and Man which this conception
involves. Accordingly, I do not think that we need look beyond Islam for
the origin of the Ṣúfí doctrines, although it would be a mistake not
to recognise the part which Christian influence must have had in shaping
their early development. The speculative character with which they
gradually became imbued, and which in the course of time completely
transformed them, was more or less latent during the Umayyad period and
for nearly a century after the accession of the House of ‘Abbás. The
early Ṣúfís are still on orthodox ground: their relation to Islam is
not unlike that of the mediæval Spanish mystics to the Roman Catholic
Church. They attach extraordinary value to certain points in
Muḥammad's teaching and emphasise them so as to leave the others
almost a dead letter. They do not indulge in profound dialectic, but
confine themselves to matters bearing on practical theology.
Self-abandonment, rigorous self-mortification, fervid piety, and
quietism carried to the verge of apathy form the main features of their

[Sidenote: Ibráhím b. Adham.]

A full and vivid picture of early Ṣúfiism might be drawn from the
numerous biographies in Arabic and Persian, which supply abundant
details concerning the manner of life of these Muḥammadan Saints, and
faithfully record their austerities, visions, miracles, and sayings.
Here we have only space to add a few lines about the most important
members of the group--Ibráhím b. Adham, Abú ‘Alí Shaqíq, Fuḍayl b.
‘Iyáḍ, and Rábi‘a--all of whom died between the middle and end of the
second century after the Hijra (767-815 A.D.). Ibráhím belonged to the
royal family of Balkh. Forty scimitars of gold and forty maces of gold
were borne in front of him and behind. One day, while hunting, he heard
a voice which cried, "Awake! wert thou created for this?" He exchanged
his splendid robes for the humble garb and felt cap of a shepherd, bade
farewell to his kingdom, and lived for nine years in a cave near
Naysábúr.[447] His customary prayer was, "O God, uplift me from the
shame of disobedience to the glory of submission unto Thee!"

  "O God!" he said, "Thou knowest that the Eight Paradises are little
  beside the honour which Thou hast done unto me, and beside Thy love,
  and beside Thy giving me intimacy with the praise of Thy name, and
  beside the peace of mind which Thou hast given me when I meditate on
  Thy majesty." And again: "You will not attain to righteousness until
  you traverse six passes (_‘aqabát_): the first is that you shut the
  door of pleasure and open the door of hardship; the second, that you
  shut the door of eminence and open the door of abasement; the third,
  that you shut the door of ease and open the door of affliction; the
  fourth, that you shut the door of sleep and open the door of
  wakefulness; the fifth, that you shut the door of riches and open
  the door of poverty; and the sixth, that you shut the door of
  expectation and open the door of making yourself ready for death."

[Sidenote: Shaqíq of Balkh.]

[Sidenote: Fuḍayl b. ‘Iyáḍ.]

[Sidenote: Rábi‘a al-‘Adawiyya.]

Shaqíq, also of Balkh, laid particular stress on the duty of leaving
one's self entirely in God's hands (_tawakkul_), a term which is
practically synonymous with passivity; _e.g._, the _mutawakkil_ must
make no effort to obtain even the barest livelihood, he must not ask for
anything, nor engage in any trade: his business is with God alone. One
of Shaqíq's sayings was, "Nine-tenths of devotion consist in flight from
mankind, the remaining tenth in silence." Similarly, Fuḍayl b.
‘Iyáḍ, a converted captain of banditti, declared that "to abstain for
men's sake from doing anything is hypocrisy, while to do anything for
men's sake is idolatry." It may be noticed as an argument against the
Indian origin of Ṣúfiism that although the three Ṣúfís who have
been mentioned were natives of Khurásán or Transoxania, and therefore
presumably in touch with Buddhistic ideas, no trace can be found in
their sayings of the doctrine of dying to self (_faná_), which plays a
great part in subsequent Ṣúfiism, and which Von Kremer and others
have identified with _Nirvána_. We now come to a more interesting
personality, in whom the ascetic and quietistic type of Ṣúfiism is
transfigured by emotion and begins clearly to reveal the direction of
its next advance. Every one knows that women have borne a distinguished
part in the annals of European mysticism: St. Teresa, Madame Guyon,
Catharine of Siena, and Juliana of Norwich, to mention but a few names
at random. And notwithstanding the intellectual death to which the
majority of Moslem women are condemned by their Prophet's ordinance, the
Ṣúfís, like the Roman Catholics, can boast a goodly number of female
saints. The oldest of these, and by far the most renowned, is Rábi‘a,
who belonged to the tribe of ‘Adí, whence she is generally called Rábi‘a
al-‘Adawiyya. She was a native of Baṣra and died at Jerusalem,
probably towards the end of the second century of Islam: her tomb was an
object of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, as we learn from Ibn Khallikán
(† 1282 A.D.). Although the sayings and verses attributed to her by
Ṣúfí writers may be of doubtful authenticity, there is every reason
to suppose that they fairly represent the actual character of her
devotion, which resembled that of all feminine mystics in being inspired
by tender and ardent feeling. She was asked: "Do you love God Almighty?"
"Yes." "Do you hate the Devil?" "My love of God," she replied, "leaves
me no leisure to hate the Devil. I saw the Prophet in a dream. He said,
'O Rábi‘a, do you love me?' I said, 'O Apostle of God, who does not love
thee?--but love of God hath so absorbed me that neither love nor hate of
any other thing remains in my heart.'" Rábi‘a is said to have spoken the
following verses:--

 "Two ways I love Thee: selfishly,
  And next, as worthy is of Thee.
 'Tis selfish love that I do naught
  Save think on Thee with every thought;
 'Tis purest love when Thou dost raise
  The veil to my adoring gaze.
  Not mine the praise in that or this,
  Thine is the praise in both, I wis."[448]

Whether genuine or not, these lines, with their mixture of devotion and
speculation--the author distinguishes the illuminative from the
contemplative life and manifestly regards the latter as the more
excellent way--serve to mark the end of the ascetic school of Ṣúfiism
and the rise of a new theosophy which, under the same name and still
professing to be in full accord with the Koran and the _Sunna_, was
founded to some extent upon ideas of extraneous origin--ideas
irreconcilable with any revealed religion, and directly opposed to the
severe and majestic simplicity of the Muḥammadan articles of faith.

[Sidenote: Umayyad literature.]

[Sidenote: The decline of Arabian poetry not due to Muḥammad.]

[Sidenote: The Umayyad poets.]

The opening century of Islam was not favourable to literature. At first
conquest, expansion, and organisation, then civil strife absorbed the
nation's energies; then, under the Umayyads, the old pagan spirit
asserted itself once more. Consequently the literature of this period
consists almost exclusively of poetry, which bears few marks of Islamic
influence. I need scarcely refer to the view which long prevailed in
Europe that Muḥammad corrupted the taste of his countrymen by setting
up the Koran as an incomparable model of poetic style, and by condemning
the admired productions of the heathen bards and the art of poetry
itself; nor remind my readers that in the first place the Koran is not
poetical in form (so that it could not serve as a model of this kind),
and secondly, according to Muḥammadan belief, is the actual Word of
God, therefore _sui generis_ and beyond imitation. Again, the poets whom
the Prophet condemned were his most dangerous opponents: he hated them
not as poets but as propagators and defenders of false ideals, and
because they ridiculed his teaching, while on the contrary he honoured
and rewarded those who employed their talents in the right way. If the
nomad minstrels and cavaliers who lived, as they sang, the free life of
the desert were never equalled by the brilliant laureates of imperial
Damascus and Baghdád, the causes of the decline cannot be traced to
Muḥammad's personal attitude, but are due to various circumstances
for which he is only responsible in so far as he founded a religious and
political system that revolutionised Arabian society. The poets of the
period with which we are now dealing follow slavishly in the footsteps
of the ancients, as though Islam had never been. Instead of celebrating
the splendid victories and heroic deeds of Moslem warriors, the bard
living in a great city still weeps over the relics of his beloved's
encampment in the wilderness, still rides away through the sandy waste
on the peerless camel, whose fine points he particularly describes; and
if he should happen to be addressing the Caliph, it is ten to one that
he will credit that august personage with all the virtues of a Bedouin
Shaykh. "Fortunately the imitation of the antique _qaṣída_, at any
rate with the greatest Umayyad poets, is to some extent only accessory
to another form of art that excites our historical interest in a high
degree: namely, the occasional poems (very numerous in almost all these
writers), which are suggested by the mood of the moment and can shed a
vivid light on contemporary history."[449]

[Sidenote: Music and song in the Holy Cities.]

[Sidenote: ‘Umar b. Abí Rabí‘a.]

The conquests made by the successors of the Prophet brought enormous
wealth into Mecca and Medína, and when the Umayyad aristocracy gained
the upper hand in ‘Uthmán's Caliphate, these towns developed a
voluptuous and dissolute life which broke through every restriction that
Islam had imposed. The increase of luxury produced a corresponding
refinement of the poetic art. Although music was not unknown to the
pagan Arabs, it had hitherto been cultivated chiefly by foreigners,
especially Greek and Persian singing-girls. But in the first century
after the Hijra we hear of several Arab singers,[450] natives of Mecca
and Medína, who set favourite passages to music: henceforth the words
and the melody are inseparably united, as we learn from the _Kitábu
’l-Aghání_ or 'Book of Songs,' where hundreds of examples are to be
found. Amidst the gay throng of pleasure-seekers women naturally played
a prominent part, and love, which had hitherto formed in most cases
merely the conventional prelude to an ode, now began to be sung for its
own sake. In this Peninsular school, as it may be named in contrast with
the bold and masculine strain of the great Provincial poets whom we are
about to mention, the palm unquestionably belongs to ‘Umar b. Abí Rabí‘a
(† 719 A.D.), the son of a rich Meccan merchant. He passed the best part
of his life in the pursuit of noble dames, who alone inspired him to
sing. His poetry was so seductive that it was regarded by devout Moslems
as "the greatest crime ever committed against God," and so charming
withal that ‘Abdulláh b. ‘Abbás, the Prophet's cousin and a famous
authority on the Koran and the Traditions, could not refrain from
getting by heart some erotic verses which ‘Umar recited to him.[451] The
Arabs said, with truth, that the tribe of Quraysh had won distinction in
every field save poetry, but we must allow that ‘Umar b. Abí Rabí‘a is a
clear exception to this rule. His diction, like that of Catullus, has
all the unaffected ease of refined conversation. Here are a few lines:--

 "Blame me no more, O comrades! but to-day
  Quietly with me beside the howdahs stay.
  Blame not my love for Zaynab, for to her
  And hers my heart is pledged a prisoner.
  Ah, can I ever think of how we met
  Once at al-Khayf, and feel no fond regret?
  My song of other women was but jest:
  She reigns alone, eclipsing all the rest.
  Hers is my love sincere, 'tis she the flame
  Of passion kindles--so, a truce to blame!"[452]

[Sidenote: Love-ballads.]

We have no space to dwell on the minor poets of the same school,
al-‘Arjí (a kinsman of the Umayyads), al-Aḥwaṣ, and many others.
It has been pointed out by Dr. C. Brockelmann that the love-poetry of
this epoch is largely of popular origin; _e.g._, the songs attributed to
Jamíl, in which Buthayna is addressed, and to Majnún--the hero of
countless Persian and Turkish romances which celebrate his love for
Laylá--are true folk-songs such as occur in the _Arabian Nights_, and
may be heard in the streets of Beyrout or on the banks of the Tigris at
the present day. Many of them are extremely beautiful. I take the
following verses from a poem which is said to have been composed by

 "Oh, might it flower anew, that youthful prime,
  And restore to us, Buthayna, the bygone time!
  And might we again be blest as we wont to be,
  When thy folk were nigh and grudged what thou gavest me!

  Shall I ever meet Buthayna alone again,
  Each of us full of love as a cloud of rain?
  Fast in her net was I when a lad, and till
  This day my love is growing and waxing still.

  I have spent my lifetime, waiting for her to speak,
  And the bloom of youth is faded from off my cheek;
  But I will not suffer that she my suit deny,
  My love remains undying, though all things die!"[453]

[Sidenote: Poetry in the provinces.]

The names of al-Akhṭal, al-Farazdaq, and Jarír stand out
pre-eminently in the list of Umayyad poets. They were men of a very
different stamp from the languishing Minnesingers and carpet-knights
who, like Jamíl, refused to battle except on the field of love. It is
noteworthy that all three were born and bred in Mesopotamia. The
motherland was exhausted; her ambitious and enterprising youth poured
into the provinces, which now become the main centres of intellectual

[Sidenote: The _Naqá’iḍ_ of Jarír and Farazdaq.]

[Sidenote: General interest in poetry.]

Farazdaq and Jarír are intimately connected by a peculiar
rivalry--"_Arcades ambo_--_id est_, blackguards both." For many years
they engaged in a public scolding-match (_muháját_), and as neither had
any scruples on the score of decency, the foulest abuse was bandied to
and fro between them--abuse, however, which is redeemed from vulgarity
by its literary excellence, and by the marvellous skill which the
satirists display in manipulating all the vituperative resources of the
Arabic language. Soon these 'Flytings' (_Naqá’iḍ_) were recited
everywhere, and each poet had thousands of enthusiastic partisans who
maintained that he was superior to his rival.[454] One day Muhallab b.
Abí Sufra, the governor of Khurásán, who was marching against the
Azáriqa, a sect of the Khárijites, heard a great clamour and tumult in
the camp. On inquiring its cause, he found that the soldiers had been
fiercely disputing as to the comparative merits of Jarír and Farazdaq,
and desired to submit the question to his decision. "Would you expose
me," said Muhallab, "to be torn in pieces by these two dogs? I will not
decide between them, but I will point out to you those who care not a
whit for either of them. Go to the Azáriqa! They are Arabs who
understand poetry and judge it aright." Next day, when the armies faced
each other, an Azraqite named ‘Abída b. Hilál stepped forth from the
ranks and offered single combat. One of Muhallab's men accepted the
challenge, but before fighting he begged his adversary to inform him
which was the better poet--Farazdaq or Jarír? "God confound you!" cried
‘Abída, "do you ask me about poetry instead of studying the Koran and
the Sacred Law?" Then he quoted a verse by Jarír and gave judgment in
his favour.[455] This incident affords a striking proof that the taste
for poetry, far from being confined to literary circles, was diffused
throughout the whole nation, and was cultivated even amidst the fatigues
and dangers of war. Parallel instances occur in the history of the
Athenians, the most gifted people of the West, and possibly elsewhere,
but imagine British soldiers discussing questions of that kind over the

Akhṭal joined in the fray. His sympathies were with Farazdaq, and the
_naqá’iḍ_ which he and Jarír composed against each other have come
down to us. All these poets, like their Post-islamic brethren generally,
were professional encomiasts, greedy, venal, and ready to revile any one
who would not purchase their praise. Some further account of them may be
interesting to the reader, especially as the anecdotes related by their
biographers throw many curious sidelights on the manners of the time.

[Sidenote: Akhṭal.]

The oldest of the trio, Akhṭal (Ghiyáth b. Ghawth) of Taghlib, was a
Christian, like most of his tribe--they had long been settled in
Mesopotamia--and remained in that faith to the end of his life, though
the Caliph ‘Abdu ’l-Malik is said to have offered him a pension and
10,000 dirhems in cash if he would turn Moslem. His religion, however,
was less a matter of principle than of convenience, and to him the
supreme virtue of Christianity lay in the licence which it gave him to
drink wine as often as he pleased. The stories told of him suggest
grovelling devoutness combined with very easy morals, a phenomenon
familiar to the student of mediæval Catholicism. It is related by one
who was touring in Syria that he found Akhṭal confined in a church at
Damascus, and pleaded his cause with the priest. The latter stopped
beside Akhṭal and raising the staff on which he leaned--for he was an
aged man--exclaimed: "O enemy of God, will you again defame people and
satirise them and caluminate chaste women?" while the poet humbled
himself and promised never to repeat the offence. When asked how it was
that he, who was honoured by the Caliph and feared by all, behaved so
submissively to this priest, he answered, "It is religion, it is
religion."[456] On another occasion, seeing the Bishop pass, he cried to
his wife who was then pregnant, "Run after him and touch his robe." The
poor woman only succeeded in touching the tail of the Bishop's ass, but
Akhṭal consoled her with the remark, "He and the tail of his ass,
there's no difference!"[457] It is characteristic of the anti-Islamic
spirit which appears so strongly in the Umayyads that their chosen
laureate and champion should have been a Christian who was in truth a
lineal descendant of the pagan bards. Pious Moslems might well be
scandalised when he burst unannounced into the Caliph's presence,
sumptuously attired in silk and wearing a cross of gold which was
suspended from his neck by a golden chain, while drops of wine trickled
from his beard,[458] but their protests went unheeded at the court of
Damascus, where nobody cared whether the author of a fine verse was a
Moslem or a Christian, and where a poet was doubly welcome whose
religion enabled him to serve his masters without any regard to
Muḥammadan sentiment; so that, for example, when Yazíd I wished to
take revenge on the people of Medína because one of their poets had
addressed amatory verses to his sister, he turned to Akhṭal, who
branded the _Anṣár_, the men who had brought about the triumph of
Islam, in the famous lines--

 "Quraysh have borne away all the honour and glory,
  And baseness alone is beneath the turbans of the Anṣár."[459]

We must remember that the poets were leaders of public opinion; their
utterances took the place of political pamphlets or of party oratory for
or against the Government of the day. On hearing Akhṭal's ode in
praise of the Umayyad dynasty,[460] ‘Abdu ’l-Malik ordered one of his
clients to conduct the author through the streets of Damascus and to cry
out, "Here is the poet of the Commander of the Faithful! Here is the
best poet of the Arabs!"[461] No wonder that he was a favourite at court
and such an eminent personage that the great tribe of Bakr used to
invite him to act as arbitrator whenever any controversy arose among
them.[462] Despite the luxury in which he lived, his wild Bedouin nature
pined for freedom, and he frequently left the capital to visit his home
in the desert, where he not only married and divorced several wives, but
also threw himself with ardour into the feuds of his clan. We have
already noticed the part which he played in the literary duel between
Jarír and Farazdaq. From his deathbed he sent a final injunction to
Farazdaq not to spare their common enemy.

Akhṭal is commended by Arabian critics for the number and excellence
of his long poems, as well as for the purity, polish, and correctness of
his style. Abú ‘Ubayda put him first among the poets of Islam, while the
celebrated collector of Pre-islamic poetry, Abú ‘Amr b. al-‘Alá,
declared that if Akhṭal had lived a single day in the Pagan Age he
would not have preferred any one to him. His supremacy in panegyric was
acknowledged by Farazdaq, and he himself claims to have surpassed all
competitors in three styles, viz., panegyric, satire, and erotic poetry;
but there is more justification for the boast that his satires might be
recited _virginibus_--he does not add _puerisque_--without causing a

[Sidenote: Farazdaq.]

Hammám b. Ghálib, generally known as Farazdaq, belonged to the tribe of
Tamím, and was born at Baṣra towards the end of ‘Umar's Caliphate,
His grandfather, Ṣa‘ṣa‘a, won renown in Pre-islamic times by
ransoming the lives of female infants whom their parents had condemned
to die (on account of which he received the title, _Muḥyi
’l-Maw’údát_, 'He who brings the buried girls to life'), and his father
was likewise imbued with the old Bedouin traditions of liberality and
honour, which were rapidly growing obsolete among the demoralised
populace of ‘Iráq. Farazdaq was a _mauvais sujet_ of the type
represented by François Villon, reckless, dissolute, and thoroughly
unprincipled: apart from his gift of vituperation, we find nothing in
him to admire save his respect for his father's memory and his constant
devotion to the House of ‘Alí, a devotion which he scorned to conceal;
so that he was cast into prison by the Caliph Hishám for reciting in his
presence a glowing panegyric on ‘Alí's grandson, Zaynu ’l-‘Ábidín. The
tragic fate of Ḥusayn at Karbalá affected him deeply, and he called
on his compatriots to acquit themselves like men--

 "If ye avenge not him, the son of the best of you,
  Then fling, fling the sword away and naught but the spindle ply."[464]

While still a young man, he was expelled from his native city in
consequence of the lampoons which he directed against a noble family of
Baṣra, the Banú Nahshal. Thereupon he fled to Medína, where he
plunged into gallantry and dissipation until a shameless description of
one of his intrigues again drew upon him the sentence of banishment. His
poems contain many references to his cousin Nawár, whom, by means of a
discreditable trick, he forced to marry him when she was on the point of
giving her hand to another. The pair were ever quarrelling, and at last
Farazdaq consented to an irrevocable divorce, which was witnessed by
Ḥasan of Baṣra, the famous theologian. No sooner was the act
complete than Farazdaq began to wish it undone, and he spoke the
following verses:--[465]

 "I feel repentance like al-Kusa‘í,[466]
  Now that Nawár has been divorced by me.
  She was my Paradise which I have lost,
  Like Adam when the Lord's command he crossed.
  I am one who wilfully puts out his eyes,
  Then dark to him the shining day doth rise!"

'The repentance of Farazdaq,' signifying bitter regret or
disappointment, passed into a proverb. He died a few months before Jarír
in 728 A.D., a year also made notable by the deaths of two illustrious
divines, Ḥasan of Baṣra and Ibn Sírín.

[Sidenote: Jarír.]

Jarír b. ‘Atiyya belonged to Kulayb, a branch of the same tribe, Tamím,
which produced Farazdaq. He was the court-poet of Ḥajjáj, the dreaded
governor of ‘Iráq, and eulogised his patron in such extravagant terms as
to arouse the jealousy of the Caliph ‘Abdu ’l-Malik, who consequently
received him, on his appearance at Damascus, with marked coldness and
hauteur. But when, after several repulses, he at length obtained
permission to recite a poem which he had composed in honour of the
prince, and came to the verse--

 "Are not ye the best of those who on camel ride,
  More open-handed than all in the world beside?"--

the Caliph sat up erect on his throne and exclaimed: "Let us be praised
like this or in silence!"[467] Jarír's fame as a satirist stood so high
that to be worsted by him was reckoned a greater distinction than to
vanquish any one else. The blind poet, Bashshár b. Burd († 783 A.D.),
said: "I satirised Jarír, but he considered me too young for him to
notice. Had he answered me, I should have been the finest poet in the
world."[468] The following anecdote shows that vituperation launched by
a master like Jarír was a deadly and far-reaching weapon which degraded
its victim in the eyes of his contemporaries, however he might deserve
their esteem, and covered his family and tribe with lasting disgrace.

  There was a poet of repute, well known by the name of Rá‘i ’l-ibil
  (Camel-herd), who loudly published his opinion that Farazdaq was
  superior to Jarír, although the latter had lauded his tribe, the
  Banú Numayr, whereas Farazdaq had made verses against them. One day
  Jarír met him and expostulated with him but got no reply. Rá‘í was
  riding a mule and was accompanied by his son, Jandal, who said to
  his father: "Why do you halt before this dog of the Banú Kulayb, as
  though you had anything to hope or fear from him?" At the same time
  he gave the mule a lash with his whip. The animal started violently
  and kicked Jarír, who was standing by, so that his cap fell to the
  ground. Rá‘í took no heed and went on his way. Jarír picked up the
  cap, brushed it, and replaced it on his head. Then he exclaimed in

   "_O Jandal! what will say Numayr of you
     When my dishonouring shaft has pierced thy sire?_"

  He returned home full of indignation, and after the evening prayer,
  having called for a jar of date-wine and a lamp, he set about his
  work. An old woman in the house heard him muttering, and mounted the
  stairs to see what ailed him. She found him crawling naked on his
  bed, by reason of that which was within him; so she ran down, crying
  "He is mad," and described what she had seen to the people of the
  house. "Get thee gone," they said, "we know what he is at." By
  daybreak Jarír had composed a satire of eighty verses against the
  Banú Numayr. When he finished the poem, he shouted triumphantly,
  "_Allah Akbar!_" and rode away to the place where he expected to
  find Rá‘í ’l-ibil and Farazdaq and their friends. He did not salute
  Rá‘í but immediately began to recite. While he was speaking Farazdaq
  and Rá‘í bowed their heads, and the rest of the company sat
  listening in silent mortification. When Jarír uttered the final

  "_Cast down thine eyes for shame! for thou art of
    Numayr--no peer of Ka‘b nor yet Kiláb_"--

  Rá‘í rose and hastened to his lodging as fast as his mule could
  carry him. "Saddle! Saddle!" he cried to his comrades; "you cannot
  stay here longer, Jarír has disgraced you all." They left Baṣra
  without delay to rejoin their tribe, who bitterly reproached Rá‘í
  for the ignominy which he had brought upon Numayr; and hundreds of
  years afterwards his name was still a byword among his people.[469]

[Sidenote: Dhu ’l-Rumma.]

Next, but next at a long interval, to the three great poets of this
epoch comes Dhu ’l-Rumma (Ghaylán b. ‘Uqba), who imitated the odes of
the desert Arabs with tiresome and monotonous fidelity. The philologists
of the following age delighted in his antique and difficult style, and
praised him far above his merits. It was said that poetry began with
Imru’u ’l-Qays and ended with Dhu ’l-Rumma; which is true in the sense
that he is the last important representative of the pure Bedouin school.

[Sidenote: Prose writers of the Umayyad period.]

Concerning the prose writers of the period we can make only a few
general observations, inasmuch as their works have almost entirely
perished.[470] In this branch of literature the same secular,
non-Muḥammadan spirit prevailed which has been mentioned as
characteristic of the poets who flourished under the Umayyad dynasty,
and of the dynasty itself. Historical studies were encouraged and
promoted by the court of Damascus. We have referred elsewhere to ‘Abíd
b. Sharya, a native of Yemen, whose business it was to dress up the old
legends and purvey them in a readable form to the public. Another
Yemenite of Persian descent, Wahb b. Munabbih, is responsible for a
great deal of the fabulous lore belonging to the domain of _Awá’il_
(Origins) which Moslem chroniclers commonly prefix to their historical
works. There seems to have been an eager demand for narratives of the
Early Wars of Islam (_maghází_). It is related that the Caliph ‘Abdu
’l-Malik, seeing one of these books in the hands of his son, ordered it
to be burnt, and enjoined him to study the Koran instead. This anecdote
shows on the part of ‘Abdu ’l-Malik a pious feeling with which he is
seldom credited,[471] but it shows also that histories of a legendary
and popular character preceded those which were based, like the
_Maghází_ of Músá b. ‘Uqba († 758 A.D.) and Ibn Isḥáq's _Biography of
the Prophet_, upon religious tradition. No work of the former class has
been preserved. The strong theological influence which asserted itself
in the second century of the Hijra was unfavourable to the development
of an Arabian prose literature on national lines. In the meantime,
however, learned doctors of divinity began to collect and write down the
_Ḥadíths_. We have a solitary relic of this sort in the _Kitábu
’l-Zuhd_ (Book of Asceticism) by Asad b. Músá († 749 A.D.). The most
renowned traditionist of the Umayyad age is Muḥammad b. Muslim b.
Shiháb al-Zuhrí († 742 A.D.), who distinguished himself by accepting
judicial office under the tyrants; an act of complaisance to which his
more stiff-necked and conscientious brethren declined to stoop.

[Sidenote: The non-Arabian Moslems.]

It was the lust of conquest even more than missionary zeal that caused
the Arabs to invade Syria and Persia and to settle on foreign soil,
where they lived as soldiers at the expense of the native population
whom they inevitably regarded as an inferior race. If the latter thought
to win respect by embracing the religion of their conquerors, they found
themselves sadly mistaken. The new converts were attached as clients
(_Mawálí_, sing. _Mawlá_) to an Arab tribe: they could not become
Moslems on any other footing. Far from obtaining the equal rights which
they coveted, and which, according to the principles of Islam, they
should have enjoyed, the _Mawálí_ were treated by their aristocratic
patrons with contempt, and had to submit to every kind of social
degradation, while instead of being exempted from the capitation-tax
paid by non-Moslems, they still remained liable to the ever-increasing
exactions of Government officials. And these 'Clients,' be it
remembered, were not ignorant serfs, but men whose culture was
acknowledged by the Arabs themselves--men who formed the backbone of the
influential learned class and ardently prosecuted those studies,
Divinity and Jurisprudence, which were then held in highest esteem. Here
was a situation full of danger. Against Shí‘ites and Khárijites the
Umayyads might claim with some show of reason to represent the cause of
law and order, if not of Islam; against the bitter cry of the oppressed
_Mawálí_ they had no argument save the sword.

[Sidenote: Presages of the Revolution.]

We have referred above to the universal belief of Moslems in a Messiah
and to the extraordinary influence of that belief on their religious and
political history. No wonder that in this unhappy epoch thousands of
people, utterly disgusted with life as they found it, should have
indulged in visions of 'a good time coming,' which was expected to
coincide with the end of the first century of the Hijra. Mysterious
predictions, dark sayings attributed to Muḥammad himself, prophecies
of war and deliverance floated to and fro. Men pored over apocryphal
books, and asked whether the days of confusion and slaughter
(_al-harj_), which, it is known, shall herald the appearance of the
Mahdí, had not actually begun.

The final struggle was short and decisive. When it closed, the Umayyads
and with them the dominion of the Arabs had passed away. Alike in
politics and literature, the Persian race asserted its supremacy. We
shall now relate the story of this Revolution as briefly as possible,
leaving the results to be considered in a new chapter.

[Sidenote: The ‘Abbásids.]

[Sidenote: ‘Abbásid propaganda in Khurásán.]

While the Shí‘ite missionaries (_du‘át_, sing. _dá‘í_) were actively
engaged in canvassing for their party, which, as we have seen,
recognised in ‘Alí and his descendants the only legitimate successors to
Muḥammad, another branch of the Prophet's family--the ‘Abbásids--had
entered the field with the secret intention of turning the labours of
the ‘Alids to their own advantage. From their ancestor, ‘Abbás, the
Prophet's uncle, they inherited those qualities of caution, duplicity,
and worldly wisdom which ensure success in political intrigue.
‘Abdulláh, the son of ‘Abbás, devoted his talents to theology and
interpretation of the Koran. He "passes for one of the strongest pillars
of religious tradition; but, in the eyes of unprejudiced European
research, he is only a crafty liar." His descendants "lived in deep
retirement in Ḥumayma, a little place to the south of the Dead Sea,
seemingly far withdrawn from the world, but which, on account of its
proximity to the route by which Syrian pilgrims went to Mecca, afforded
opportunities for communication with the remotest lands of Islam. From
this centre they carried on the propaganda in their own behalf with the
utmost skill. They had genius enough to see that the best soil for their
efforts was the distant Khurásán--that is, the extensive north-eastern
provinces of the old Persian Empire."[472] These countries were
inhabited by a brave and high-spirited people who in consequence of
their intolerable sufferings under the Umayyad tyranny, the devastation
of their homes and the almost servile condition to which they had been
reduced, were eager to join in any desperate enterprise that gave them
hope of relief. Moreover, the Arabs in Khurásán were already to a large
extent Persianised: they had Persian wives, wore trousers, drank wine,
and kept the festivals of Nawrúz and Mihrgán; while the Persian language
was generally understood and even spoken among them.[473] Many
interesting details as to the methods of the ‘Abbásid emissaries will be
found in Van Vloten's admirable work.[474] Starting from Kúfa, the
residence of the Grand Master who directed the whole agitation, they
went to and fro in the guise of merchants or pilgrims, cunningly
adapting their doctrine to the intelligence of those whom they sought to
enlist. Like the Shí‘ites, they canvassed for 'the House of the
Prophet,' an ambiguous expression which might equally well be applied to
the descendants of ‘Alí or of ‘Abbás, as is shown by the following

                           ‘Abdu ’l-Muṭṭalib.
       │                            │                │
  ‘Abdulláh.                   Abú Ṭálib.         ‘Abbás.
       │                            │
  Muḥammad (the Prophet).         ‘Alí (married to Fáṭima, daughter of
                                          the Prophet).

[Sidenote: The Shí‘ites join hands with the ‘Abbásids.]

It was, of course, absolutely essential to the ‘Abbásids that they
should be able to count on the support of the powerful Shí‘ite
organisation, which, ever since the abortive rebellion headed by Mukhtár
(see p. 218 _supra_) had drawn vast numbers of Persian _Mawálí_ into its
ranks. Now, of the two main parties of the Shí‘a, viz., the Háshimites
or followers of Muḥammad Ibnu ’l-Ḥanafiyya, and the Imámites, who
pinned their faith to the descendants of the Prophet through his
daughter Fáṭima, the former had virtually identified themselves with
the ‘Abbásids, inasmuch as the Imám Abú Háshim, who died in 716 A.D.,
bequeathed his hereditary rights to Muḥammad b. ‘Alí, the head of the
House of ‘Abbás. It only remained to hoodwink the Imámites. Accordingly
the ‘Abbásid emissaries were instructed to carry on their propaganda in
the name of Háshim, the common ancestor of ‘Abbás and ‘Alí. By means of
this ruse they obtained a free hand in Khurásán, and made such progress
that the governor of that province, Naṣr b. Sayyár, wrote to the
Umayyad Caliph, Marwán, asking for reinforcements, and informing him
that two hundred thousand men had sworn allegiance to Abú Muslim, the
principal ‘Abbásid agent. At the foot of his letter he added these

 "I see the coal's red glow beneath the embers,
        And 'tis about to blaze!
  The rubbing of two sticks enkindles fire,
        And out of words come frays.
  'Oh! is Umayya's House awake or sleeping?'
        I cry in sore amaze."[475]

We have other verses by this gallant and loyal officer in which he
implores the Arab troops stationed in Khurásán, who were paralysed by
tribal dissensions, to turn their swords against "a mixed rabble without
religion or nobility":--

 "'Death to the Arabs'--that is all their creed."[476]

[Sidenote: Declaration of war.]

[Sidenote: Abú Muslim.]

These warnings, however, were of no avail, and on June 9th, A.D. 747,
Abú Muslim displayed the black banner of the ‘Abbásids at Siqadanj, near
Merv, which city he occupied a few months later. The triumphant advance
of the armies of the Revolution towards Damascus recalls the celebrated
campaign of Cæsar, when after crossing the Rubicon he marched on Rome.
Nor is Abú Muslim, though a freedman of obscure parentage--he was
certainly no Arab--unworthy to be compared with the great patrician. "He
united," says Nöldeke, "with an agitator's adroitness and perfect
unscrupulosity in the choice of means the energy and clear outlook of a
general and statesman, and even of a monarch."[477] Grim, ruthless,
disdaining the pleasures of ordinary men, he possessed the faculty in
which Cæsar excelled of inspiring blind obedience and enthusiastic
devotion. To complete the parallel, we may mention here that Abú Muslim
was treacherously murdered by Manṣúr, the second Caliph of the House
which he had raised to the throne, from motives exactly resembling those
which Shakespeare has put in the mouth of Brutus--

                                "So Caesar may:
  Then, lest he may, prevent. And since the quarrel
  Will bear no colour for the thing he is,
  Fashion it thus: that what he is, augmented,
  Would run to these and these extremities;
  And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
  Which, hatched, would as his kind grow mischievous,
  And kill him in the shell."

[Sidenote: Accession of Abu ’l-‘Abbás al-Saffáḥ.]

The downfall of the Umayyads was hastened by the perfidy and selfishness
of the Arabs on whom they relied: the old feud between Muḍar and
Yemen broke out afresh, and while the Northern group remained loyal to
the dynasty, those of Yemenite stock more or less openly threw in their
lot with the Revolution. We need not attempt to trace the course of the
unequal contest. Everywhere the Arabs, disheartened and divided, fell an
easy prey to their adversaries, and all was lost when Marwán, the last
Umayyad Caliph, sustained a crushing defeat on the River Záb in
Babylonia (January, A.D. 750). Meanwhile Abu ’l-‘Abbás, the head of the
rival House, had already received homage as Caliph (November, 749 A.D.).
In the inaugural address which he delivered in the great Mosque of Kúfa,
he called himself _al-Saffáḥ_, _i.e._, 'the Blood-shedder,'[478] and
this title has deservedly stuck to him, though it might have been
assumed with no less justice by his brother Mansúr and other members of
his family. All Umayyads were remorselessly hunted down and massacred in
cold blood--even those who surrendered only on the strength of the most
solemn pledges that they had nothing to fear. A small remnant made their
escape, or managed to find shelter until the storm of fury and
vengeance, which spared neither the dead nor the living,[479] had blown
over. One stripling, named ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán, fled to North Africa, and
after meeting with many perilous adventures founded a new Umayyad
dynasty in Spain.



The annals of the ‘Abbásid dynasty from the accession of Saffáḥ (A.D.
749) to the death of Musta‘ṣim, and the destruction of Baghdád by the
Mongols (A.D. 1258) make a round sum of five centuries. I propose to
sketch the history of this long period in three chapters, of which the
first will offer a general view of the more important literary and
political developments so far as is possible in the limited space at my
command; the second will be devoted to the great poets, scholars,
historians, philosophers, and scientists who flourished in this, the
Golden Age of Muḥammadan literature; while in the third some account
will be given of the chief religious movements and of the trend of
religious thought.

[Sidenote: Political results of the Revolution.]

The empire founded by the Caliph ‘Umar and administered by the Umayyads
was essentially, as the reader will have gathered, a military
organisation for the benefit of the paramount race. In theory, no doubt,
all Moslems were equal, but in fact the Arabs alone ruled--a privilege
which national pride conspired with personal interest to maintain. We
have seen how the Persian Moslems asserted their right to a share in the
government. The Revolution which enthroned the ‘Abbásids marks the
beginning of a Moslem, as opposed to an Arabian, Empire. The new
dynasty, owing its rise to the people of Persia, and especially of
Khurásán, could exist only by establishing a balance of power between
Persians and Arabs. That this policy was not permanently successful will
surprise no one who considers the widely diverse characteristics of the
two races, but for the next fifty years the rivals worked together in
tolerable harmony, thanks to the genius of Manṣúr and the
conciliatory influence of the Barmecides, by whose overthrow the
alliance was virtually dissolved. In the ensuing civil war between the
sons of Hárún al-Rashíd the Arabs fought on the side of Amín while the
Persians supported Ma’mún, and henceforth each race began to follow an
independent path. The process of separation, however, was very gradual,
and long before it was completed the religious and intellectual life of
both nationalities had become inseparably mingled in the full stream of
Moslem civilisation.

[Sidenote: The choice of a new capital.]

[Sidenote: Foundation of Baghdád.]

The centre of this civilisation was the province of ‘Iráq (Babylonia),
with its renowned metropolis, Baghdád, 'the City of Peace' (_Madínatu
’l-Salám_). Only here could the ‘Abbásids feel themselves at home.
"Damascus, peopled by the dependants of the Omayyads, was out of the
question. On the one hand it was too far from Persia, whence the power
of the ‘Abbásids was chiefly derived; on the other hand it was
dangerously near the Greek frontier, and from here, during the troublous
reigns of the last Omayyads, hostile incursions on the part of the
Christians had begun to avenge former defeats. It was also beginning to
be evident that the conquests of Islam would, in the future, lie to the
eastward towards Central Asia, rather than to the westward at the
further expense of the Byzantines. Damascus, on the highland of Syria,
lay, so to speak, dominating the Mediterranean and looking westward, but
the new capital that was to supplant it must face east, be near Persia,
and for the needs of commerce have water communication with the sea.
Hence everything pointed to a site on either the Euphrates or the
Tigris, and the ‘Abbásids were not slow to make their choice."[480]
After carefully examining various sites, the Caliph Manṣúr fixed on a
little Persian village, on the west bank of the Tigris, called Baghdád,
which, being interpreted, means 'given (or 'founded') by God'; and in
A.D. 762 the walls of the new city began to rise. Manṣúr laid the
first brick with his own hand, and the work was pushed forward with
astonishing rapidity under his personal direction by masons, architects,
and surveyors, whom he gathered out of different countries, so that 'the
Round City,' as he planned it, was actually finished within the short
space of four years.

[Sidenote: Despotic character of ‘Abbásid rule.]

[Sidenote: The Vizier.]

The same circumstances which caused the seat of empire to be transferred
to Baghdád brought about a corresponding change in the whole system of
government. Whereas the Umayyads had been little more than heads of a
turbulent Arabian aristocracy, their successors reverted to the old type
of Oriental despotism with which the Persians had been familiar since
the days of Darius and Xerxes. Surrounded by a strong bodyguard of
troops from Khurásán, on whose devotion they could rely, the ‘Abbásids
ruled with absolute authority over the lives and properties or their
subjects, even as the Sásánian monarchs had ruled before them. Persian
fashions were imitated at the court, which was thronged with the
Caliph's relatives and freedmen (not to mention his womenfolk), besides
a vast array of uniformed and decorated officials. Chief amongst these
latter stood two personages who figure prominently in the _Arabian
Nights_--the Vizier and the Executioner. The office of Vizier is
probably of Persian origin, although in Professor De Goeje's opinion the
word itself is Arabic.[481] The first who bore this title in ‘Abbásid
times was Abú Salama, the minister of Saffáḥ: he was called _Wazíru
Áli Muḥammadin_, 'the Vizier of Muḥammad's Family.' It was the
duty of the Vizier to act as intermediary between the omnipotent
sovereign and his people, to counsel him in affairs of State, and, above
all, to keep His Majesty in good humour. He wielded enormous power, but
was exposed to every sort of intrigue, and never knew when he might be
interned in a dungeon or despatched in the twinkling of an eye by the
grim functionary presiding over the _naṭ‘_, or circular carpet of
leather, which lay beside the throne and served as a scaffold.

[Sidenote: Two periods of ‘Abbásid history.]

We can distinguish two periods in the history of the ‘Abbásid House: one
of brilliant prosperity inaugurated by Manṣúr and including the
reigns of Mahdí, Hárún al-Rashíd, Ma’mún, Mu‘tasim, and Wáthiq--that is
to say, nearly a hundred years in all (754-847 A.D.); the other, more
than four times as long, commencing with Mutawakkil (847-861 A.D.)--a
period of decline rapidly sinking, after a brief interval which gave
promise of better things, into irremediable decay.[482]

[Sidenote: Reign of Manṣúr (754-775 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Outbreaks in Persia.]

Cruel and treacherous, like most of his family, Abú Ja‘far Manṣúr was
perhaps the greatest ruler whom the ‘Abbásids produced.[483] He had to
fight hard for his throne. The ‘Alids, who deemed themselves the true
heirs of the Prophet in virtue of their descent from Fáṭima, rose in
rebellion against the usurper, surprised him in an unguarded moment, and
drove him to such straits that during seven weeks he never changed his
dress except for public prayers. But once more the ‘Alids proved
incapable of grasping their opportunity. The leaders, Muḥammad, who
was known as 'The Pure Soul' (_al-Nafs al-zakiyya_), and his brother
Ibráhím, fell on the battle-field. Under Mahdí and Hárún members of the
House of ‘Alí continued to 'come out,' but with no better success. In
Eastern Persia, where strong national feelings interwove themselves with
Pre-Muḥammadan religious ideas, those of Mazdak and Zoroaster in
particular, the ‘Abbásids encountered a formidable opposition which
proclaimed its vigour and tenacity by the successive revolts of Sinbádh
the Magian (755-756 A.D.), Ustádhsís (766-768), Muqanna‘, the 'Veiled
Prophet of Khurásán' (780-786), and Bábak the Khurramite (816-838).[484]

[Sidenote: Manṣúr's advice to Mahdí.]

Manṣúr said to his son Mahdi, "O Abú ‘Abdalláh, when you sit in
company, always have divines to converse with you; for Muḥammad b.
Shiháb al-Zuhrí said, 'The word _ḥadíth_ (Apostolic Tradition) is
masculine: only virile men love it, and only effeminate men dislike it';
and he spoke the truth."[485]

[Sidenote: Manṣúr and the poet.]

On one occasion a poet came to Mahdí, who was then heir-apparent, at
Rayy, and recited a panegyric in his honour. The prince gave him 20,000
dirhems. Thereupon the postmaster of Rayy informed Manṣúr, who wrote
to his son reproaching him for such extravagance. "What you should have
done," he said, "was to let him wait a year at your door, and after that
time bestow on him 4,000 dirhems." He then caused the poet to be
arrested and brought into his presence. "You went to a heedless youth
and cajoled him?" "Yes, God save the Commander of the Faithful, I went
to a heedless, generous youth and cajoled him, and he suffered himself
to be cajoled." "Recite your eulogy of him." The poet obeyed, not
forgetting to conclude his verses with a compliment to Manṣúr.
"Bravo!" cried the Caliph, "but they are not worth 20,000 dirhems. Where
is the money?" On its being produced he made him a gift of 4,000 dirhems
and confiscated the remainder.[486]

[Sidenote: The Barmecides.]

[Sidenote: Yaḥyá b. Khálid.]

Notwithstanding irreconcilable parties--‘Alids, Persian extremists, and
(we may add) Khárijites--the policy of _rapprochement_ was on the whole
extraordinarily effective. In carrying it out the Caliphs received
powerful assistance from a noble and ancient Persian family, the
celebrated Barmakites or Barmecides. According to Mas‘údí,[487] Barmak
was originally a title borne by the High Priest (_sádin_) of the great
Magian fire-temple at Balkh. Khálid, the son of one of these
dignitaries--whence he and his descendants were called Barmakites
(_Barámika_)--held the most important offices of state under Saffáḥ
and Manṣúr. Yaḥyá, the son of Khálid, was entrusted with the
education of Hárún al-Rashíd, and on the accession of the young prince
he was appointed Grand Vizier. "My dear father!" said the Caliph, "it is
through the blessings and the good fortune which attend you, and through
your excellent management, that I am seated on the throne;[488] so I
commit to you the direction of affairs." He then handed to him his
signet-ring. Yaḥyá was distinguished (says the biographer) for
wisdom, nobleness of mind, and elegance of language.[489] Although he
took a truly Persian delight in philosophical discussion, for which
purpose freethinking scholars and eminent heretics used often to meet
in his house, he was careful to observe the outward forms of piety. It
may be said of the ‘Abbásids generally that, whatever they might do or
think in private, they wore the official badge of Islam ostentatiously
on their sleeves. The following verses which Yaḥyá addressed to his
son Faḍl are very characteristic:--[490]

 "Seek glory while 'tis day, no effort spare,
  And patiently the loved one's absence bear;
  But when the shades of night advancing slow
  O'er every vice a veil of darkness throw,
  Beguile the hours with all thy heart's delight:
  The day of prudent men begins at night.
  Many there be, esteemed of life austere,
  Who nightly enter on a strange career.
  Night o'er them keeps her sable curtain drawn,
  And merrily they pass from eve to dawn.
  Who but a fool his pleasures would expose
  To spying rivals and censorious foes?"

[Sidenote: Fall of the Barmecides (803 A.D.).]

For seventeen years Yaḥyá and his two sons, Faḍl and Ja‘far,
remained deep in Hárún's confidence and virtual rulers of the State
until, from motives which have been variously explained, the Caliph
resolved to rid himself of the whole family. The story is too well known
to need repetition.[491] Ja‘far alone was put to death: we may conclude,
therefore, that he had specially excited the Caliph's anger; and those
who ascribe the catastrophe to his romantic love-affair with Hárún's
sister, ‘Abbása, are probably in the right.[492] Hárún himself seems to
have recognised, when it was too late, how much he owed to these great
Persian barons whose tactful administration, unbounded generosity, and
munificent patronage of literature have shed immortal lustre on his
reign. Afterwards, if any persons spoke ill of the Barmecides in his
presence, he would say (quoting the verse of Ḥuṭay’a):--[493]

 "O slanderers, be your sire of sire bereft![494]
  Give o'er, or fill the gap which they have left."

[Sidenote: Hárún al-Rashíd (786-809 A.D.).]

Hárún's orthodoxy, his liberality, his victories over the Byzantine
Emperor Nicephorus, and last but not least the literary brilliance of
his reign have raised him in popular estimation far above all the other
Caliphs: he is the Charlemagne of the East, while the entrancing pages
of the _Thousand and One Nights_ have made his name a household word in
every country of Europe. Students of Moslem history will soon discover
that "the good Haroun Alraschid" was in fact a perfidious and irascible
tyrant, whose fitful amiability and real taste for music and letters
hardly entitle him to be described either as a great monarch or a good
man. We must grant, however, that he thoroughly understood the noble art
of patronage. The poets Abú Nuwás, Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya, Di‘bil, Muslim b.
Walíd, and ‘Abbás b. Aḥnaf; the musician Ibráhím of Mosul and his son
Isḥáq; the philologists Abú ‘Ubayda, Aṣma‘í, and Kisá’í; the
preacher Ibnu ’l-Sammák; and the historian Wáqidí--these are but a few
names in the galaxy of talent which he gathered around him at Baghdád.

[Sidenote: Amín and Ma’mún (809-833 A.D.).]

The fall of the Barmecides revived the spirit of racial antagonism which
they had done their best to lay, and an open rupture was rendered
inevitable by the short-sighted policy of Hárún with regard to the
succession. He had two grown-up sons, Amín, by his wife and cousin
Zubayda, and Ma’mún, whose mother was a Persian slave. It was arranged
that the Caliphate should pass to Amín and after him to his brother, but
that the Empire should be divided between them. Amín was to receive
‘Iráq and Syria, Ma’mún the eastern provinces, where the people would
gladly welcome a ruler of their own blood. The struggle for supremacy
which began almost immediately on the death of Hárún was in the main one
of Persians against Arabs, and by Ma’mún's triumph the Barmecides were
amply avenged.

[Sidenote: Ma’mún's heresies.]

[Sidenote: Rise of independent dynasties.]

[Sidenote: Turkish mercenaries introduced.]

[Sidenote: Decline of the Caliphate.]

The new Caliph was anything but orthodox. He favoured the Shí‘ite party
to such an extent that he even nominated the ‘Alid, ‘Alí b. Músá b.
Ja‘far al-Riḍá, as heir-apparent--a step which alienated the members
of his own family and led to his being temporarily deposed. He also
adopted the opinions of the Mu‘tazilite sect and established an
Inquisition to enforce them. Hence the Sunnite historian, Abu
’l-Maḥásin, enumerates three principal heresies of which Ma’mún was
guilty: (1) His wearing of the Green (_labsu ’l-Khuḍra_)[495] and
courting the ‘Alids and repulsing the ‘Abbásids; (2) his affirming that
the Koran was created (_al-qawl bi-Khalqi ’l-Qur’án_); and (3) his
legalisation of the _mut‘a_, a loose form of marriage prevailing amongst
the Shí‘ites.[496] We shall see in due course how keenly and with what
fruitful results Ma’mún interested himself in literature and science.
Nevertheless, it cannot escape our attention that in this splendid reign
there appear ominous signs of political decay. In 822 A.D. Ṭáhir, one
of Ma’mún's generals, who had been appointed governor of Khurásán,
omitted the customary mention of the Caliph's name from the Friday
sermon (_khuṭba_), thus founding the Ṭahirid dynasty, which,
though professing allegiance to the Caliphs, was practically
independent. Ṭáhir was only the first of a long series of ambitious
governors and bold adventurers who profited by the weakening authority
of the Caliphs to carve out kingdoms for themselves. Moreover, the
Moslems of ‘Iráq had lost their old warlike spirit: they were fine
scholars and merchants, but poor soldiers. So it came about that
Ma’mún's successor, the Caliph Mu‘taṣim (833-842 A.D.), took the
fatal step of surrounding himself with a Prætorian Guard chiefly
composed of Turkish recruits from Transoxania. At the same time he
removed his court from Baghdád sixty miles further up the Tigris to
Sámarrá, which suddenly grew into a superb city of palaces and
barracks--an Oriental Versailles.[497] Here we may close our brief
review of the first and flourishing period of the ‘Abbásid Caliphate.
During the next four centuries the Caliphs come and go faster than ever,
but for the most part their authority is precarious, if not purely
nominal. Meanwhile, in the provinces of the Empire petty dynasties
arise, only to eke out an obscure and troubled existence, or powerful
states are formed, which carry on the traditions of Muḥammadan
culture, it may be through many generations, and in some measure restore
the blessings of peace and settled government to an age surfeited with
anarchy and bloodshed. Of these provincial empires we have now
principally to speak, confining our view, for the most part, to the
political outlines, and reserving the literary and religious aspects of
the period for fuller consideration elsewhere.

[Sidenote: The Second ‘Abbásid Period (847-1258 A.D.).]

The reigns of Mutawakkil (847-861 A.D.) and his immediate successors
exhibit all the well-known features of Prætorian rule. Enormous sums
were lavished on the Turkish soldiery, who elected and deposed the
Caliph just as they pleased, and enforced their insatiable demands by
mutiny and assassination. For a short time (869-907 A.D.) matters
improved under the able and energetic Muhtadí and the four Caliphs who
followed him; but the Turks soon regained the upper hand. From this date
every vestige of real power is centred in the Generalissimo (_Amíru
’l-Umará_) who stands at the head of the army, while the once omnipotent
Caliph must needs be satisfied with the empty honour of having his name
stamped on the coinage and celebrated in the public prayers. The
terrorism of the Turkish bodyguard was broken by the Buwayhids, a
Persian dynasty, who ruled in Baghdád from 945 to 1055 A.D. Then the
Seljúq supremacy began with Ṭughril Beg's entry into the capital and
lasted a full century until the death of Sanjar (1157 A.D.). The Mongols
who captured Baghdád in 1258 A.D. brought the pitiable farce of the
Caliphate to an end.

  [Sidenote: Dynasties of the early ‘Abbásid Age.]

  "The empire of the Caliphs at its widest," as Stanley Lane-Poole
  observes in his excellent account of the Muḥammadan dynasties,
  "extended from the Atlantic to the Indus, and from the Caspian to
  the cataracts of the Nile. So vast a dominion could not long be held
  together. The first step towards its disintegration began in Spain,
  where ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán, a member of the suppressed Umayyad family,
  was acknowledged as an independent sovereign in A.D. 755, and the
  ‘Abbásid Caliphate was renounced for ever. Thirty years later Idrís,
  a great-grandson of the Caliph ‘Alí, and therefore equally at
  variance with ‘Abbásids and Umayyads, founded an ‘Alid dynasty in
  Morocco. The rest of the North African coast was practically lost to
  the Caliphate when the Aghlabid governor established his authority
  at Qayrawán in A.D. 800."

[Sidenote: Dynasties of the Second Period. 872 A.D.]

[Sidenote: The Sámánids (874-999 A.D.).]

Amongst the innumerable kingdoms which supplanted the decaying Caliphate
only a few of the most important can be singled out for special notice
on account of their literary or religious interest.[498] To begin with
Persia: in Khurásán, which was then held by the Ṭáhirids, fell into
the hands of Ya‘qúb b. Layth the Coppersmith (_al-Ṣaffár_), founder
of the Ṣaffárids, who for thirty years stretched their sway over a
great part of Persia, until they were dispossessed by the Sámánids. The
latter dynasty had the seat of its power in Transoxania, but during the
first half of the tenth century practically the whole of Persia
submitted to the authority of Ismá‘íl and his famous successors, Naṣr
II and Núḥ I. Not only did these princes warmly encourage and foster
the development, which had already begun, of a national literature in
the Persian language--it is enough to recall here the names of Rúdagí,
the blind minstrel and poet; Daqíqí, whose fragment of a Persian Epic
was afterwards incorporated by Firdawsí in his _Sháhnáma_; and Bal‘amí,
the Vizier of Manṣúr I, who composed an abridgment of Ṭabarí's
great history, which is one of the oldest prose works in Persian that
have come down to us--but they extended the same favour to poets and men
of learning who (though, for the most part, of Persian extraction)
preferred to use the Arabic language. Thus the celebrated Rhazes (Abú
Bakr al-Rází) dedicated to the Sámánid prince Abú Ṣáliḥ Manṣúr
b. Isháq a treatise on medicine, which he entitled _al-Kitáb
al-Manṣúrí_ (the Book of Manṣúr) in honour of his patron. The
great physician and philosopher, Abú ‘Alí b. Síná (Avicenna) relates
that, having been summoned to Bukhárá by King Núḥ, the second of that
name (976-997 A.D.), he obtained permission to visit the royal library.
"I found there," he says, "many rooms filled with books which were
arranged in cases row upon row. One room was allotted to works on Arabic
philology and poetry; another to jurisprudence, and so forth, the books
on each particular science having a room to themselves. I inspected the
catalogue of ancient Greek authors and looked for the books which I
required: I saw in this collection books of which few people have heard
even the names, and which I myself have never seen either before or

[Sidenote: The Buwayhids (932-1055 A.D.).]

The power of the Sámánids quickly reached its zenith, and about the
middle of the tenth century they were confined to Khurásán and
Transoxania, while in Western Persia their place was taken by the
Buwayhids. Abú Shujá‘ Buwayh, a chieftain of Daylam, the mountainous
province lying along the southern shores of the Caspian Sea, was one of
those soldiers of fortune whom we meet with so frequently in the history
of this period. His three sons, ‘Alí, Aḥmad, and Ḥasan, embarked
on the same adventurous career with such energy and success, that in the
course of thirteen years they not only subdued the provinces of Fárs and
Khúzistán, but in 945 A.D. entered Baghdád at the head of their
Daylamite troops and assumed the supreme command, receiving from the
Caliph Mustakfí the honorary titles of ‘Imádu ’l-Dawla, Mu‘izzu
’l-Dawla, and Ruknu ’l-Dawla. Among the princes of this House, who
reigned over Persia and ‘Iráq during the next hundred years, the most
eminent was ‘Aḍudu ’l-Dawla, of whom it is said by Ibn Khallikán that
none of the Buwayhids, notwithstanding their great power and authority,
possessed so extensive an empire and held sway over so many kings and
kingdoms as he. The chief poets of the day, including Mutanabbí, visited
his court at Shíráz and celebrated his praises in magnificent odes. He
also built a great hospital in Baghdád, the Bímáristán al-‘Aḍudí,
which was long famous as a school of medicine. The Viziers of the
Buwayhid family contributed in a quite unusual degree to its literary
renown. Ibnu ’l-‘Amíd, the Vizier of Ruknu ’l-Dawla, surpassed in
philology and epistolary composition all his contemporaries; hence he
was called 'the second Jáḥiẓ,' and it was a common saying that
"the art of letter-writing began with ‘Abdu ’l-Ḥamíd and ended with
Ibnu ’l-‘Amíd."[500] His friend, the Ṣáḥib Ismá‘íl b. ‘Abbád,
Vizier to Mu’ayyidu ’l-Dawla and Fakhru ’l-Dawla, was a distinguished
savant, whose learning was only eclipsed by the liberality of his
patronage. In the latter respect Sábúr b. Ardashír, the prime minister
of Abú Naṣr Bahá’u ’l-Dawla, vied with the illustrious Ṣáḥib.
He had so many encomiasts that Tha‘álibí devotes to them a whole chapter
of the _Yatíma_. The Academy which he founded at Baghdád, in the Karkh
quarter, and generously endowed, was a favourite haunt of literary men,
and its members seem to have enjoyed pretty much the same privileges as
belong to the Fellows of an Oxford or Cambridge College.[501]

Like most of their countrymen, the Buwayhids were Shí‘ites in religion.
We read in the Annals of Abu ’l-Maḥásin under the year 341 A.H. = 952

  [Sidenote: Zeal of the Buwayhids for Shí‘ite principles.]

  "In this year the Vizier al-Muhallabí arrested some persons who held
  the doctrine of metempsychosis (_tanásukh_). Among them were a youth
  who declared that the spirit of ‘Alí b. Abí Ṭálib had passed into
  his body, and a woman who claimed that the spirit of Fáṭima was
  dwelling in her; while another man pretended to be Gabriel. On being
  flogged, they excused themselves by alleging their relationship to
  the Family of the Prophet, whereupon Mu‘izzu ’l-Dawla ordered them
  to be set free. This he did because of his attachment to Shí‘ism. It
  is well known," says the author in conclusion, "that the Buwayhids
  were Shí‘ites and Ráfiḍites."[502]

[Sidenote: The Ghaznevids (976-1186 A.D.).]

Three dynasties contemporary with the Buwayhids have still to be
mentioned: the Ghaznevids in Afghanistan, the Ḥamdánids in Syria, and
the Fáṭimids in Egypt. Sabuktagín, the founder of the first-named
dynasty, was a Turkish slave. His son, Maḥmúd, who succeeded to the
throne of Ghazna in 998 A.D., made short work of the already tottering
Sámánids, and then sweeping far and wide over Northern India, began a
series of conquests which, before his death in 1030 A.D., reached from
Lahore to Samarcand and Iṣfahán. Although the Persian and
Transoxanian provinces of his huge empire were soon torn away by the
Seljúqs, Maḥmúd's invasion of India, which was undertaken with the
object of winning that country for Islam, permanently established
Muḥammadan influence, at any rate in the Panjáb. As regards their
religious views, the Turkish Ghaznevids stand in sharp contrast with the
Persian houses of Sámán and Buwayh. It has been well said that the true
genius of the Turks lies in action, not in speculation. When Islam came
across their path, they saw that it was a simple and practical creed
such as the soldier requires; so they accepted it without further
parley. The Turks have always remained loyal to Islam, the Islam of Abú
Bakr and ‘Umar, which is a very different thing from the Islam of
Shí‘ite Persia. Maḥmúd proved his orthodoxy by banishing the
Mu‘tazilites of Rayy and burning their books together with the
philosophical and astronomical works that fell into his hands; but on
the same occasion he carried off a hundred camel-loads of presumably
harmless literature to his capital. That he had no deep enthusiasm for
letters is shown, for example, by his shabby treatment of the poet
Firdawsí. Nevertheless, he ardently desired the glory and prestige
accruing to a sovereign whose court formed the rallying-point of all
that was best in the literary and scientific culture of the day, and
such was Ghazna in the eleventh century. Besides the brilliant group of
Persian poets, with Firdawsí at their head, we may mention among the
Arabic-writing authors who flourished under this dynasty the historians
al-‘Utbí and al-Bírúní.

[Sidenote: The Ḥamdánids (929-1003 A.D.).]

While the Eastern Empire of Islam was passing into the hands of Persians
and Turks, we find the Arabs still holding their own in Syria and
Mesopotamia down to the end of the tenth century. These Arab and
generally nomadic dynasties were seldom of much account. The
Ḥamdánids of Aleppo alone deserve to be noticed here, and that
chiefly for the sake of the peerless Sayfu ’l-Dawla, a worthy descendant
of the tribe of Taghlib, which in the days of heathendom produced the
poet-warrior, ‘Amr b. Kulthúm. ‘Abdulláh b. Ḥamdán was appointed
governor of Mosul and its dependencies by the Caliph Muktafí in 905
A.D., and in 942 his sons Ḥasan and ‘Alí received the complimentary
titles of Náṣiru ’l-Dawla (Defender of the State) and Sayfu ’l-Dawla
(Sword of the State). Two years later Sayfu ’l-Dawla captured Aleppo and
brought the whole of Northern Syria under his dominion. During a reign
of twenty-three years he was continuously engaged in harrying the
Byzantines on the frontiers of Asia Minor, but although he gained some
glorious victories, which his laureate Mutanabbí has immortalised, the
fortune of war went in the long run steadily against him, and his
successors were unable to preserve their little kingdom from being
crushed between the Byzantines in the north and the Fáṭtimids in the
south. The Ḥamdánids have an especial claim on our sympathy, because
they revived for a time the fast-decaying and already almost broken
spirit of Arabian nationalism. It is this spirit that speaks with a
powerful voice in Mutanabbí and declares itself, for example, in such
verses as these:--[503]

  "Men from their kings alone their worth derive,
  But Arabs ruled by aliens cannot thrive:
  Boors without culture, without noble fame,
  Who know not loyalty and honour's name.
  Go where thou wilt, thou seest in every land
  Folk driven like cattle by a servile band."

[Sidenote: The circle of Sayfu ’l-Dawla.]

The reputation which Sayfu ’l-Dawla's martial exploits and his repeated
triumphs over the enemies of Islam richly earned for him in the eyes of
his contemporaries was enhanced by the conspicuous energy and
munificence with which he cultivated the arts of peace. Considering the
brevity of his reign and the relatively small extent of his resources,
we may well be astonished to contemplate the unique assemblage of
literary talent then mustered in Aleppo. There was, first of all,
Mutanabbí, in the opinion of his countrymen the greatest of Moslem
poets; there was Sayfu ’l-Dawla's cousin, the chivalrous Abú Firás,
whose war-songs are relieved by many a touch of tender and true feeling;
there was Abu ’l-Faraj of Iṣfahán, who on presenting to Sayfu
’l-Dawla his _Kitábu ’l-Aghání_, one of the most celebrated and
important works in all Arabic literature, received one thousand pieces
of gold accompanied with an expression of regret that the prince was
obliged to remunerate him so inadequately; there was also the great
philosopher, Abú Naṣr al-Fárábí, whose modest wants were satisfied by
a daily pension of four dirhems (about two shillings) from the public
treasury. Surely this is a record not easily surpassed even in the
heyday of ‘Abbásid patronage. As for the writers of less note whom Sayfu
’l-Dawla attracted to Aleppo, their name is legion. Space must be found
for the poets Sarí al-Raffá, Abu ’l-‘Abbás al-Námí, and Abu ’l-Faraj
al-Babbaghá for the preacher (_khaṭíb_) Ibn Nubáta, who would often
rouse the enthusiasm of his audience while he urged the duty of
zealously prosecuting the Holy War against Christian Byzantium; and for
the philologist Ibn Khálawayh, whose lectures were attended by students
from all parts of the Muḥammadan world. The literary renaissance
which began at this time in Syria was still making its influence felt
when Tha‘álibí wrote his _Yatíma_, about thirty years after the death of
Sayfu ’l-Dawla, and it produced in Abu ’l-‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí (born 973
A.D.) an original and highly interesting personality, to whom we shall
return on another occasion.

[Sidenote: The Fáṭimids (909-1171 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: The Ismá‘ílite propaganda.]

The dynasties hitherto described were political in their origin, having
generally been founded by ambitious governors or vassals. These upstarts
made no pretensions to the nominal authority, which they left in the
hands of the Caliph even while they forced him at the sword's point to
recognise their political independence. The Sámánids and Buwayhids,
Shí‘ites as they were, paid the same homage to the Caliph in Baghdád as
did the Sunnite Ghaznevids. But in the beginning of the tenth century
there arose in Africa a great Shí‘ite power, that of the Fáṭimids,
who took for themselves the title and prerogatives of the Caliphate,
which they asserted to be theirs by right Divine. This event was only
the climax of a deep-laid and skilfully organised plot--one of the most
extraordinary in all history. It had been put in train half a century
earlier by a certain ‘Abdulláh the son of Maymún, a Persian oculist
(_qaddáḥ_) belonging to Aḥwáz. Filled with a fierce hatred of the
Arabs and with a freethinker's contempt for Islam, ‘Abdulláh b. Maymún
conceived the idea of a vast secret society which should be all things
to all men, and which, by playing on the strongest passions and tempting
the inmost weaknesses of human nature, should unite malcontents of every
description in a conspiracy to overthrow the existing _régime_. Modern
readers may find a parallel for this romantic project in the pages of
Dumas, although the Aramis of _Twenty Years After_ is a simpleton beside
‘Abdulláh. He saw that the movement, in order to succeed, must be
started on a religious basis, and he therefore identified himself with
an obscure Shí‘ite sect, the Ismá‘ílís, who were so called because they
regarded Muḥammad, son of Ismá‘íl, son of Ja‘far al-Ṣádiq, as the
Seventh Imám. Under ‘Abdulláh the Ismá‘ílís developed their mystical and
antinomian doctrines, of which an excellent account has been given by
Professor Browne in the first volume of his _Literary History of Persia_
(p. 405 sqq.). Here we can only refer to the ingenious and fatally
insidious methods which he devised for gaining proselytes on a gigantic
scale, and with such amazing success that from this time until the
Mongol invasion--a period of almost four centuries--the Ismá‘ílites
(Fáṭimids, Carmathians, and Assassins) either ruled or ravaged a
great part of the Muḥammadan Empire. It is unnecessary to discuss the
question whether ‘Abdulláh b. Maymún was, as Professor Browne thinks,
primarily a religious enthusiast, or whether, according to the view
commonly held, his real motives were patriotism and personal ambition.
The history of Islam shows clearly enough that the revolutionist is
nearly always disguised as a religious leader, while, on the other hand,
every founder of a militant sect is potentially the head of a state.
‘Abdulláh may have been a fanatic first and a politician afterwards;
more probably he was both at once from the beginning. His plan of
operations was briefly as follows:--

  The _dá‘í_ or missionary charged with the task of gaining adherents
  for the Hidden Imám (see p. 216 seq.), in whose name allegiance was
  demanded, would settle in some place, representing himself to be a
  merchant, Ṣúfí, or the like. By renouncing worldly pleasures,
  making a show of strict piety, and performing apparent miracles, it
  was easy for him to pass as a saint with the common folk. As soon as
  he was assured of his neighbours' confidence and respect, he began
  to raise doubts in their minds. He would suggest difficult problems
  of theology or dwell on the mysterious significance of certain
  passages of the Koran. May there not be (he would ask) in religion
  itself a deeper meaning than appears on the surface? Then, having
  excited the curiosity of his hearers, he suddenly breaks off. When
  pressed to continue his explanation, he declares that such mysteries
  cannot be communicated save to those who take a binding oath of
  secrecy and obedience and consent to pay a fixed sum of money in
  token of their good faith. If these conditions were accepted, the
  neophyte entered upon the second of the nine degrees of initiation.
  He was taught that mere observance of the laws of Islam is not
  pleasing to God, unless the true doctrine be received through the
  Imáms who have it in keeping. These Imáms (as he next learned) are
  seven in number, beginning with ‘Alí; the seventh and last is
  Muḥammad, son of Ismá‘íl. On reaching the fourth degree he
  definitely ceased to be a Moslem, for here he was taught the
  Ismá‘ílite system of theology in which Muḥammad b. Ismá‘íl
  supersedes the founder of Islam as the greatest and last of all the
  Prophets. Comparatively few initiates advanced beyond this grade to
  a point where every form of positive religion was allegorised away,
  and only philosophy was left. "It is clear what a tremendous weapon,
  or rather machine, was thus created. Each man was given the amount
  of light which he could bear and which was suited to his prejudices,
  and he was made to believe that the end of the whole work would be
  the attaining of what he regarded as most desirable."[504] Moreover,
  the Imám Muḥammad b. Ismá‘íl having disappeared long ago, the
  veneration which sought a visible object was naturally transferred
  to his successor and representative on earth, viz., ‘Abdulláh b.
  Maymún, who filled the same office in relation to him as Aaron to
  Moses and ‘Alí to Muḥammad.

About the middle of the ninth century the state of the Moslem Empire was
worse, if possible, than it had been in the latter days of Umayyad rule.
The peasantry of ‘Iráq were impoverished by the desolation into which
that flourishing province was beginning to fall in consequence of the
frequent and prolonged civil wars. In 869 A.D. the negro slaves (_Zanj_)
employed in the saltpetre industry, for which Baṣra was famous, took
up arms at the call of an ‘Alid Messiah, and during fourteen years
carried fire and sword through Khúzistán and the adjacent territory. We
can imagine that all this misery and discontent was a godsend to the
Ismá‘ílites. The old cry, "A deliverer of the Prophet's House," which
served the ‘Abbásids so well against the Umayyads, was now raised with
no less effect against the ‘Abbásids themselves.

[Sidenote: The Fáṭimid dynasty founded by the Mahdí ‘Ubaydu’lláh (909

‘Abdulláh b. Maymún died in 875 A.D., but the agitation went on, and
rapidly gathered force. One of the leading spirits was Ḥamdán
Qarmaṭ, who gave his name to the Carmathian branch of the Ismá‘ílís.
These Carmathians (_Qarámiṭa_, sing. _Qirmiṭí_) spread over
Southern Persia and Yemen, and in the tenth century they threatened
Baghdád, repeatedly waylaid the pilgrim-caravans, sacked Mecca and bore
away the Black Stone as a trophy; in short, established a veritable
reign of terror. We must return, however, to the main Ismá‘ílite faction
headed by the descendants of ‘Abdulláh b. Maymún. Their emissaries
discovered a promising field of work in North Africa among the credulous
and fanatical Berbers. When all was ripe, Sa‘íd b. Ḥusayn, the
grandson of ‘Abdulláh b. Maymún, left Salamya in Syria, the centre from
which the wires had hitherto been pulled, and crossing over to Africa
appeared as the long-expected Mahdí under the name of ‘Ubaydu’lláh. He
gave himself out to be a great-grandson of the Imám Muḥammad b.
Ismá‘íl and therefore in the direct line of descent from ‘Alí b. Abí
Ṭálib and Fáṭima the daughter of the Prophet. We need not stop to
discuss this highly questionable genealogy from which the Fáṭimid
dynasty derives its name. In 910 A.D. ‘Ubaydu’lláh entered Raqqáda in
triumph and assumed the title of Commander of the Faithful. Tunis, where
the Aghlabites had ruled since 800 A.D., was the cradle of Fáṭimid
power, and here they built their capital, Mahdiyya, near the ancient
Thapsus. Gradually advancing eastward, they conquered Egypt and Syria as
far as Damascus (969-970 A.D.). At this time the seat of government was
removed to the newly-founded city of Cairo (_al-Qáhira_), which remained
for two centuries the metropolis of the Fáṭimid Empire.[505]

[Sidenote: The Ayyúbids (1171-1250 A.D.).]

The Shí‘ite Anti-Caliphs maintained themselves in Egypt until 1171 A.D.,
when the famous Saladin (Ṣaláḥu ’l-Dín b. Ayyúb) took possession
of that country and restored the Sunnite faith. He soon added Syria to
his dominions, and "the fall of Jerusalem (in 1187) roused Europe to
undertake the Third Crusade." The Ayyúbids were strictly orthodox, as
behoved the champions of Islam against Christianity. They built and
endowed many theological colleges. The Ṣúfí pantheist, Shihábu ’l-Dín
Yaḥyá al-Suhrawardí, was executed at Aleppo by order of Saladin's
son, Malik al-Ẓáhir, in 1191 A.D.

[Sidenote: The Seljúqs (1037-1300 A.D.).]

The two centuries preceding the extinction of the ‘Abbásid Caliphate by
the Mongols witnessed the rise and decline of the Seljúq Turks, who
"once more re-united Muḥammadan Asia from the western frontier of
Afghanistan to the Mediterranean under one sovereign." Seljúq b. Tuqáq
was a Turcoman chief. Entering Transoxania, he settled near Bukhárá and
went over with his whole people to Islam. His descendants, Ṭughril
Beg and Chagar Beg, invaded Khurásán, annexed the western provinces of
the Ghaznevid Empire, and finally absorbed the remaining dominions of
the Buwayhids. Baghdád was occupied by Ṭughril Beg in 1055 A.D. It
has been said that the Seljúqs contributed almost nothing to culture,
but this perhaps needs some qualification. Although Alp Arslán, who
succeeded Ṭughril, and his son Malik Sháh devoted their energies in
the first place to military affairs, the latter at least was an
accomplished and enlightened monarch. "He exerted himself to spread the
benefits of civilisation: he dug numerous canals, walled a great number
of cities, built bridges, and constructed _ribáṭs_ in the desert
places."[506] He was deeply interested in astronomy, and scientific as
well as theological studies received his patronage. Any shortcomings of
Alp Arslán and Malik Sháh in this respect were amply repaired by their
famous minister, Ḥasan b. ‘Alí, the Niẓámu ’l-Mulk or 'Constable
of the Empire,' to give him the title which he has made his own. Like so
many great Viziers, he was a Persian, and his achievements must not
detain us here, but it may be mentioned that he founded in Baghdád and
Naysábúr the two celebrated academies which were called in his honour

[Sidenote: Arabia and Spain.]

We have now taken a general, though perforce an extremely curtailed and
disconnected, view of the political conditions which existed during the
‘Abbásid period in most parts of the Muḥammadan Empire except Arabia
and Spain. The motherland of Islam had long sunk to the level of a minor
province: leaving the Holy Cities out of consideration, one might
compare its inglorious destiny under the Caliphate to that of Macedonia
in the empire which Alexander bequeathed to his successors, the
Ptolemies and Seleucids. As regards the political history of Spain a few
words will conveniently be said in a subsequent chapter, where the
literature produced by Spanish Moslems will demand our attention. In the
meantime we shall pass on to the characteristic literary developments of
this period, which correspond more or less closely to the historical

The first thing that strikes the student of mediæval Arabic literature
is the fact that a very large proportion of the leading writers are
non-Arabs, or at best semi-Arabs, men whose fathers or mothers were of
foreign, and especially Persian, race. They wrote in Arabic, because
down to about 1000 A.D. that language was the sole medium of literary
expression in the Muḥammadan world, a monopoly which it retained in
scientific compositions until the Mongol Invasion of the thirteenth
century. I have already referred to the question whether such men as
Bashshár b. Burd, Abú Nuwás, Ibn Qutayba, Ṭabarí, Ghazálí, and
hundreds of others should be included in a literary history of the
Arabs, and have given reasons, which I need not repeat in this place,
for considering their admission to be not only desirable but fully
justified on logical grounds.[507] The absurdity of treating them as
Persians--and there is no alternative, if they are not to be reckoned as
Arabs--appears to me self-evident.

"It is strange," says Ibn Khaldún, "that most of the learned among the
Moslems who have excelled in the religious or intellectual sciences are
non-Arabs (_‘Ajam_) with rare exceptions; and even those savants who
claimed Arabian descent spoke a foreign language, grew up in foreign
lands, and studied under foreign masters, notwithstanding that the
community to which they belonged was Arabian and the author of its
religion an Arab." The historian proceeds to explain the cause of this
singular circumstance in an interesting passage which may be summarised
as follows:--

  [Sidenote: Ibn Khaldún's explanation of the fact that learning was
  chiefly cultivated by the Persian Moslems.]

  The first Moslems were entirely ignorant of art and science, all
  their attention being devoted to the ordinances of the Koran, which
  they "carried in their breasts," and to the practice (_sunna_) of
  the Prophet. At that time the Arabs knew nothing of the way by which
  learning is taught, of the art of composing books, and of the means
  whereby knowledge is enregistered. Those, however, who could repeat
  the Koran and relate the Traditions of Muḥammad were called
  Readers (_qurrá_). This oral transmission continued until the reign
  of Hárún al-Rashíd, when the need of securing the Traditions against
  corruption or of preventing their total loss caused them to be set
  down in writing; and in order to distinguish the genuine Traditions
  from the spurious, every _isnád_ (chain of witnesses) was carefully
  scrutinised. Meanwhile the purity of the Arabic tongue had gradually
  become impaired: hence arose the science of grammar; and the rapid
  development of Law and Divinity brought it about that other
  sciences, _e.g._, logic and dialectic, were professionally
  cultivated in the great cities of the Muḥammadan Empire. The
  inhabitants of these cities were chiefly Persians, freedmen and
  tradesmen, who had been long accustomed to the arts of civilisation.
  Accordingly the most eminent of the early grammarians,
  traditionists, and scholastic theologians, as well as of those
  learned in the principles of Law and in the interpretation of the
  Koran, were Persians by race or education, and the saying of the
  Prophet was verified--"_If Knowledge were attached to the ends of
  the sky, some amongst the Persians would have reached it._" Amidst
  all this intellectual activity the Arabs, who had recently emerged
  from a nomadic life, found the exercise of military and
  administrative command too engrossing to give them leisure for
  literary avocations which have always been disdained by a ruling
  caste. They left such studies to the Persians and the mixed race
  (_al-muwalladún_), which sprang from intermarriage of the conquerors
  with the conquered. They did not entirely look down upon the men of
  learning but recognised their services--since after all it was Islam
  and the sciences connected with Islam that profited thereby.[508]

Even in the Umayyad period, as we have seen, the maxim that Knowledge is
Power was strikingly illustrated by the immense social influence which
Persian divines exerted in the Muḥammadan community.[509]
Nevertheless, true Arabs of the old type regarded these _Mawálí_ and
their learning with undisguised contempt. To the great majority of
Arabs, who prided themselves on their noble lineage and were content to
know nothing beyond the glorious traditions of heathendom and the
virtues practised by their sires, all literary culture seemed petty and
degrading. Their overbearing attitude towards the _Mawálí_, which is
admirably depicted in the first part of Goldziher's _Muhammedanische
Studien_, met with a vigorous response. Non-Arabs and Moslem pietists
alike appealed to the highest authority--the Koran; and since they
required a more definite and emphatic pronouncement than was forthcoming
from that source, they put in the mouth of the Prophet sayings like
these: "He that speaks Arabic is thereby an Arab"; "whoever of the
people of Persia accepts Islam is (as much an Arab as) one of Quraysh."
This doctrine made no impression upon the Arabian aristocracy, but with
the downfall of the Umayyads the political and social equality of the
_Mawálí_ became an accomplished fact. Not that the Arabs were at all
disposed to abate their pretensions. They bitterly resented the favour
which the foreigners enjoyed and the influence which they exercised. The
national indignation finds a voice in many poems of the early ‘Abbásid
period, _e.g._:--

 "See how the asses which they used to ride
  They have unsaddled, and sleek mules bestride!
  No longer kitchen-herbs they buy and sell,[510]
  But in the palace and the court they dwell;
  Against us Arabs full of rage and spleen,
  Hating the Prophet and the Moslem's _dín_."[511]

[Sidenote: The Shu‘úbites.]

The side of the non-Arabs in this literary quarrel was vehemently
espoused by a party who called themselves the Shu‘úbites
(_al-Shu‘úbiyya_),[512] while their opponents gave them the name of
Levellers (_Ahlu ’l-Taswiya_), because they contended for the equality
of all Moslems without regard to distinctions of race. I must refer the
reader who seeks information concerning the history of the movement to
Goldziher's masterly study,[513] where the controversial methods adopted
by the Shu‘úbites are set forth in ample detail. He shows how the bolder
spirits among them, not satisfied with claiming an _equal_ position,
argued that the Arabs were absolutely inferior to the Persians and other
peoples. The question was hotly debated, and many eminent writers took
part in the fray. On the Shu‘úbite side Abú ‘Ubayda, Bírúní, and
Ḥamza of Iṣfahán deserve mention. Jáḥiẓ and Ibn Durayd
were the most notable defenders of their own Arabian nationality, but
the 'pro-Arabs' also included several men of Persian origin, such as Ibn
Qutayba, Baládhurí, and Zamakhsharí. The Shu‘úbites directed their
attacks principally against the racial pride of the Arabs, who were fond
of boasting that they were the noblest of all mankind and spoke the
purest and richest language in the world. Consequently the Persian
genealogists and philologists lost no opportunity of bringing to light
scandalous and discreditable circumstances connected with the history of
the Arab tribes or of particular families. Arabian poetry, especially
the vituperative pieces (_mathálib_), furnished abundant matter of this
sort, which was adduced by the Shu‘úbites as convincing evidence that
the claims of the Arabs to superior nobility were absurd. At the same
time the national view as to the unique and incomparable excellence of
the Arabic language received some rude criticism.

[Sidenote: Assimilation of Arabs and Persians.]

[Sidenote: Enthusiasm for learning in the early ‘Abbásid period.]

So acute and irreconcilable were the racial differences between Arabs
and Persians that one is astonished to see how thoroughly the latter
became Arabicised in the course of a few generations. As clients
affiliated to an Arab tribe, they assumed Arabic names and sought to
disguise their foreign extraction by fair means or foul. Many provided
themselves with fictitious pedigrees, on the strength of which they
passed for Arabs. Such a pretence could have deceived nobody if it had
not been supported by a complete assimilation in language, manners, and
even to some extent in character. On the neutral ground of Muḥammadan
science animosities were laid aside, and men of both races laboured
enthusiastically for the common cause. When at length, after a century
of bloody strife and engrossing political agitation, the great majority
of Moslems found themselves debarred from taking part in public affairs,
it was only natural that thousands of ardent and ambitious souls should
throw their pent-up energies into the pursuit of wealth or learning. We
are not concerned here with the marvellous development of trade under
the first ‘Abbásid Caliphs, of which Von Kremer has given a full and
entertaining description in his _Culturgeschichte des Orients_. It may
be recalled, however, that many commercial terms, _e.g._, tariff, names
of fabrics (muslin, tabby, &c.), occurring in English as well as in most
European languages are of Arabic origin and were brought to Europe by
merchants from Baghdád, Mosul, Baṣra, and other cities of Western
Asia. This material expansion was accompanied by an outburst of
intellectual activity such as the East had never witnessed before. It
seemed as if all the world from the Caliph down to the humblest citizen
suddenly became students, or at least patrons, of literature. In quest
of knowledge men travelled over three continents and returned home, like
bees laden with honey, to impart the precious stores which they had
accumulated to crowds of eager disciples, and to compile with incredible
industry those works of encyclopædic range and erudition from which
modern Science, in the widest sense of the word, has derived far more
than is generally supposed.

[Sidenote: Development of the Moslem sciences.]

The Revolution which made the fortune of the ‘Abbásid House was a
triumph for Islam and the party of religious reform. While under the
worldly Umayyads the studies of Law and Tradition met with no public
encouragement and were only kept alive by the pious zeal of oppressed
theologians, the new dynasty drew its strength from the Muḥammadan
ideas which it professed to establish, and skilfully adapted its policy
to satisfying the ever-increasing claims of the Church. Accordingly the
Moslem sciences which arose at this time proceeded in the first instance
from the Koran and the Ḥadíth. The sacred books offered many
difficulties both to provincial Arabs and especially to Persians and
other Moslems of foreign extraction. For their right understanding a
knowledge of Arabic grammar and philology was essential, and this
involved the study of the ancient Pre-islamic poems which supplied the
most authentic models of Arabian speech in its original purity. The
study of these poems entailed researches into genealogy and history,
which in the course of time became independent branches of learning.
Similarly the science of Tradition was systematically developed in order
to provide Moslems with practical rules for the conduct of life in every
conceivable particular, and various schools of Law sprang into

[Sidenote: Their classification.]

Muḥammadan writers usually distinguish the sciences which are
connected with the Koran and those which the Arabs learned from foreign
peoples. In the former class they include the Traditional or Religious
Sciences (_al-‘Ulúm al-Naqliyya awi ’l-Shar‘iyya_) and the Linguistic
Sciences (_‘Ulúmu ’l-Lisáni ’l-‘Arabí_); in the latter the Intellectual
or Philosophical Sciences (_al-‘Ulúm al-‘Aqliyya awi ’l-Ḥikmiyya_),
which are sometimes called 'The Sciences of the Foreigners' (_‘Ulúmu
’l-‘Ajam_) or 'The Ancient Sciences' (_al-‘Ulúm al-Qadíma_).

The general scope of this division may be illustrated by the following


  1. Koranic Exegesis (_‘Ilmu ’l-Tafsír_).
  2. Koranic Criticism (_‘Ilmu ’l-Qirá’át_).
  3. The Science of Apostolic Tradition (_‘Ilmu ’l-Ḥadíth_).
  4. Jurisprudence (_Fiqh_).
  5. Scholastic Theology (_‘Ilmu ’l-Kalám_).
  6. Grammar (_Naḥw_).
  7. Lexicography (_Lugha_).
  8. Rhetoric (_Bayán_).
  9. Literature (_Adab_).


  1. Philosophy (_Falsafa_).[514]
  2. Geometry (_Handasa_).[515]
  3. Astronomy (_‘Ilmu ’l-Nujúm_).
  4. Music (_Músíqí_).
  5. Medicine (_Ṭibb_).
  6. Magic and Alchemy (_al-Siḥr wa-’l-Kímiyá_).

[Sidenote: The early ‘Abbásid period favourable to free-thought.]

The religious phenomena of the Period will be discussed in a separate
chapter, and here I can only allude cursorily to their general
character. We have seen that during the whole Umayyad epoch, except in
the brief reign of ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Azíz, the professors of religion
were out of sympathy with the court, and that many of them withdrew from
all participation in public affairs. It was otherwise when the ‘Abbásids
established themselves in power. Theology now dwelt in the shadow of the
throne and directed the policy of the Government. Honours were showered
on eminent jurists and divines, who frequently held official posts of
high importance and stood in the most confidential and intimate
relations to the Caliph; a classical example is the friendship of the
Cadi Abú Yúsuf and Hárún al-Rashíd. The century after the Revolution
gave birth to the four great schools of Muhammadan Law, which are still
called by the names of their founders--Málik b. Anas, Abú Ḥanífa,
Sháfi‘í, and Ahmad b. Ḥanbal. At this time the scientific and
intellectual movement had free play. The earlier Caliphs usually
encouraged speculation so long as it threatened no danger to the
existing _régime_. Under Ma’mún and his successors the Mu‘tazilite
Rationalism became the State religion, and Islam seemed to have entered
upon an era of enlightenment. Thus the first ‘Abbásid period (750-847
A.D.) with its new learning and liberal theology may well be compared to
the European Renaissance; but in the words of a celebrated Persian

 _Khil‘atí bas fákhir ámad ‘umr ‘aybash kútahíst._[516]

 "Life is a very splendid robe: its fault is brevity."

[Sidenote: The triumph of orthodoxy.]

The Caliph Mutawakkil (847-861 A.D.) signalised his accession by
declaring the Mu‘tazilite doctrines to be heretical and by returning to
the traditional faith. Stern measures were taken against dissenters.
Henceforth there was little room in Islam for independent thought. The
populace regarded philosophy and natural science as a species of
infidelity. Authors of works on these subjects ran a serious risk unless
they disguised their true opinions and brought the results of their
investigations into apparent conformity with the text of the Koran.
About the middle of the tenth century the reactionary spirit assumed a
dogmatic shape in the system of Abu ’l-Ḥasan al-Ash‘arí, the father
of Muḥammadan Scholasticism, which is essentially opposed to
intellectual freedom and has maintained its petrifying influence almost
unimpaired down to the present time.

I could wish that this chapter were more worthy of the title which I
have chosen for it, but the foregoing pages will have served their
purpose if they have enabled my readers to form some idea of the
politics of the Period and of the broad features marking the course of
its literary and religious history.



[Sidenote: The Pre-islamic poets regarded as classical.]

Pre-Islamic poetry was the natural expression of nomad life. We might
therefore have expected that the new conditions and ideas introduced by
Islam would rapidly work a corresponding revolution in the poetical
literature of the following century. Such, however, was far from being
the case. The Umayyad poets clung tenaciously to the great models of the
Heroic Age and even took credit for their skilful imitation of the
antique odes. The early Muḥammadan critics, who were philologists by
profession, held fast to the principle that Poetry in Pre-islamic times
had reached a perfection which no modern bard could hope to emulate, and
which only the lost ideals of chivalry could inspire.[517] To have been
born after Islam was in itself a proof of poetical inferiority.[518]
Linguistic considerations, of course, entered largely into this
prejudice. The old poems were studied as repositories of the pure
classical tongue and were estimated mainly from a grammarian's

[Sidenote: Abú Nuwás as a critic.]

These ideas gained wide acceptance in literary circles and gradually
biassed the popular taste to such an extent that learned pedants could
boast, like Khalíl b. Ahmad, the inventor of Arabic prosody, that it lay
in their power to make or mar the reputation of a rising poet as they
deemed fit. Originality being condemned in advance, those who desired
the approval of this self-constituted Academy were obliged to waste
their time and talents upon elaborate reproduction of the ancient
masterpieces, and to entertain courtiers and citizens with borrowed
pictures of Bedouin life in which neither they nor their audience took
the slightest interest. Some, it is true, recognised the absurdity of
the thing. Abú Nuwás († _circa_ 810 A.D.) often ridicules the custom, to
which reference has been made elsewhere, of apostrophising the deserted
encampment (_aṭlál_ or _ṭulúl_) in the opening lines of an ode,
and pours contempt on the fashionable glorification of antiquity. In the
passage translated below he gives a description of the desert and its
people which recalls some of Dr. Johnson's sallies at the expense of
Scotland and Scotsmen:--

 "Let the south-wind moisten with rain the desolate scene
  And Time efface what once was so fresh and green!
  Make the camel-rider free of a desert space
  Where high-bred camels trot with unwearied pace;
  Where only mimosas and thistles flourish, and where,
  For hunting, wolves and hyenas are nowise rare!
  Amongst the Bedouins seek not enjoyment out:
  What do they enjoy? They live in hunger and drought.
  Let them drink their bowls of milk and leave them alone,
  To whom life's finer pleasures are all unknown."[519]

Ibn Qutayba, who died towards the end of the ninth century A.D., was the
first critic of importance to declare that ancients and moderns should
be judged on their merits without regard to their age. He writes as
follows in the Introduction to his 'Book of Poetry and Poets' (_Kitábu
’l-Shi‘r wa-’l-Shu‘ará_):--[520]

  [Sidenote: Ibn Qutayba on ancient and modern poets.]

  "In citing extracts from the works of the poets I have been guided
  by my own choice and have refused to admire anything merely because
  others thought it admirable. I have not regarded any ancient with
  veneration on account of his antiquity nor any modern with contempt
  on account of his being modern, but I have taken an impartial view
  of both sides, giving every one his due and amply acknowledging his
  merit. Some of our scholars, as I am aware, pronounce a feeble poem
  to be good, because its author was an ancient, and include it among
  their chosen pieces, while they call a sterling poem bad though its
  only fault is that it was composed in their own time or that they
  have seen its author. God, however, did not restrict learning and
  poetry and rhetoric to a particular age nor appropriate them to a
  particular class, but has always distributed them in common amongst
  His servants, and has caused everything old to be new in its own day
  and every classic work to be an upstart on its first appearance."

[Sidenote: Revolt against classicism.]

The inevitable reaction in favour of the new poetry and of contemporary
literature in general was hastened by various circumstances which
combined to overthrow the prevalent theory that Arabian heathendom and
the characteristic pagan virtues--honour, courage, liberality, &c.--were
alone capable of producing poetical genius. Among the chief currents of
thought tending in this direction, which are lucidly set forth in
Goldziher's essay, pp. 148 sqq., we may note (_a_) the pietistic and
theological spirit fostered by the ‘Abbásid Government, and (_b_) the
influence of foreign, pre-eminently Persian, culture. As to the former,
it is manifest that devout Moslems would not be at all disposed to admit
the exclusive pretensions made on behalf of the _Jáhiliyya_ or to agree
with those who exalted chivalry (_muruwwa_) above religion (_dín_). Were
not the language and style of the Koran incomparably excellent? Surely
the Holy Book was a more proper subject for study than heathen verses.
But if Moslems began to call Pre-islamic ideals in question, it was
especially the Persian ascendancy resulting from the triumph of the
‘Abbásid House that shook the old arrogant belief of the Arabs in the
intellectual supremacy of their race. So far from glorying in the
traditions of paganism, many people thought it grossly insulting to
mention an ‘Abbásid Caliph in the same breath with heroes of the past
like Ḥátim of Ṭayyi’ and Harim b. Sinán. The philosopher al-Kindí
(† about 850 A.D.) rebuked a poet for venturing on such odious
comparisons. "Who are these Arabian vagabonds" (_ṣa‘álíku ’l-‘Arab_),
he asked, "and what worth have they?"[521]

[Sidenote: Critics in favour of the modern school.]

While Ibn Qutayba was content to urge that the modern poets should get a
fair hearing, and should be judged not chronologically or
philologically, but _æsthetically_, some of the greatest literary
critics who came after him do not conceal their opinion that the new
poetry is superior to the old. Tha‘álibí († 1038 A.D.) asserts that in
tenderness and elegance the Pre-islamic bards are surpassed by their
successors, and that both alike have been eclipsed by his
contemporaries. Ibn Rashíq († _circa_ 1070 A.D.), whose _‘Umda_ on the
Art of Poetry is described by Ibn Khaldún as an epoch-making work,
thought that the superiority of the moderns would be acknowledged if
they discarded the obsolete conventions of the Ode. European readers
cannot but sympathise with him when he bids the poets draw inspiration
from nature and truth instead of relating imaginary journeys on a camel
which they never owned, through deserts which they never saw, to a
patron residing in the same city as themselves. This seems to us a very
reasonable and necessary protest, but it must be remembered that the
Bedouin _qaṣída_ was not easily adaptable to the conditions of urban
life, and needed complete remoulding rather than modification in

[Sidenote: Popularity of the modern poets.]

"In the fifth century," says Goldziher--_i.e._, from about 1000
A.D.--"the dogma of the unattainable perfection of the heathen poets may
be regarded as utterly demolished." Henceforth popular taste ran
strongly in the other direction, as is shown by the immense
preponderance of modern pieces in the anthologies--a favourite and
characteristic branch of Arabic literature--which were compiled during
the ‘Abbásid period and afterwards, and by frequent complaints of the
neglect into which the ancient poetry had fallen. But although, for
Moslems generally, Imru’u ’l-Qays and his fellows came to be more or
less what Chaucer is to the average Englishman, the views first
enunciated by Ibn Qutayba met with bitter opposition from the learned
class, many of whom clung obstinately to the old philological principles
of criticism, and even declined to recognise the writings of Mutanabbí
and Abu ’l-‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí as poetry, on the ground that those authors
did not observe the classical 'types' (_asálíb_).[523] The result of
such pedantry may be seen at the present day in thousands of
_qaṣídas_, abounding in archaisms and allusions to forgotten far-off
things of merely antiquarian interest, but possessing no more claim to
consideration here than the Greek and Latin verses of British scholars
in a literary history of the Victorian Age.

[Sidenote: Characteristics of the new poetry.]

Passing now to the characteristics of the new poetry which followed the
accession of the ‘Abbásids, we have to bear in mind that from first to
last (with very few exceptions) it flourished under the patronage of the
court. There was no organised book trade, no wealthy publishers, so that
poets were usually dependent for their livelihood on the capricious
bounty of the Caliphs and his favourites whom they belauded. Huge sums
were paid for a successful panegyric, and the bards vied with each other
in flattery of the most extravagant description. Even in writers of real
genius this prostitution of their art gave rise to a great deal of the
false glitter and empty bombast which are often erroneously attributed
to Oriental poetry as a whole.[524] These qualities, however, are
absolutely foreign to Arabian poetry of the best period. The old
Bedouins who praised a man only for that which was in him, and drew
their images directly from nature, stand at the opposite pole to
Tha‘álibí's contemporaries. Under the Umayyads, as we have seen, little
change took place. It is not until after the enthronement of the
‘Abbásids, when Persians filled the chief offices at court, and when a
goodly number of poets and eminent men of learning had Persian blood in
their veins, that an unmistakably new note makes itself heard. One might
be tempted to surmise that the high-flown, bombastic, and ornate style
of which Mutanabbí is the most illustrious exponent, and which is so
marked a feature in later Muḥammadan poetry, was first introduced by
the Persians and Perso-Arabs who gathered round the Caliph in Baghdád
and celebrated the triumph of their own race in the person of a noble
Barmecide; but this would scarcely be true. The style in question is not
specially Persian; the earliest Arabic-writing poets of Íránian descent,
like Bashshár b. Burd and Abú Nuwás, are (so far as I can see) without a
trace of it. What the Persians brought into Arabian poetry was not a
grandiose style, but a lively and graceful fancy, elegance of diction,
depth and tenderness of feeling, and a rich store of ideas.

The process of transformation was aided by other causes besides the
influx of Persian and Hellenistic culture: for example, by the growing
importance of Islam in public life and the diffusion of a strong
religious spirit among the community at large--a spirit which attained
its most perfect expression in the reflective and didactic poetry of Abu
’l-‘Atáhiya. Every change of many-coloured life is depicted in the
brilliant pages of these modern poets, where the reader may find,
according to his mood, the maddest gaiety and the shamefullest
frivolity; strains of lofty meditation mingled with a world-weary
pessimism; delicate sentiment, unforced pathos, and glowing rhetoric;
but seldom the manly self-reliance, the wild, invigorating freedom and
inimitable freshness of Bedouin song.

[Sidenote: Five typical poets of the ‘Abbásid period.]

It is of course impossible to do justice even to the principal ‘Abbásid
poets within the limits of this chapter, but the following five may be
taken as fairly representative: Muṭí‘ b. Iyás, Abú Nuwás, Abu
’l-‘Atáhiya, Mutanabbí, and Abu ’l-‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí. The first three were
in close touch with the court of Baghdád, while Mutanabbí and Abu
’l-‘Alá flourished under the Ḥamdánid dynasty which ruled in Aleppo.

[Sidenote: Muṭí‘ b. Iyás.]

Muṭí‘ b. Iyás only deserves notice here as the earliest poet of the
New School. His father was a native of Palestine, but he himself was
born and educated at Kúfa. He began his career under the Umayyads, and
was devoted to the Caliph Walíd b. Yazíd, who found in him a fellow
after his own heart, "accomplished, dissolute, an agreeable companion
and excellent wit, reckless in his effrontery and suspected in his
religion."[525] When the ‘Abbásids came into power Muṭí‘ attached
himself to the Caliph Manṣúr. Many stories are told of the debauched
life which he led in the company of _zindíqs_, or freethinkers, a class
of men whose opinions we shall sketch in another chapter. His songs of
love and wine are distinguished by their lightness and elegance. The
best known is that in which he laments his separation from the daughter
of a _Dihqán_ (Persian landed proprietor), and invokes the two
palm-trees of Ḥulwán, a town situated on the borders of the Jibál
province between Hamadhán and Baghdád. From this poem arose the proverb,
"Faster friends than the two palm-trees of Ḥulwán."[526]


 "O ye two palms, palms of Ḥulwán,
  Help me weep Time's bitter dole!
  Know that Time for ever parteth
  Life from every living soul.

  Had ye tasted parting's anguish,
  Ye would weep as I, forlorn.
  Help me! Soon must ye asunder
  By the same hard fate be torn.

  Many are the friends and loved ones
  Whom I lost in days of yore.
  Fare thee well, O yeoman's daughter!--
  Never grief like this I bore.
  Her, alas, mine eyes behold not,
  And on me she looks no more!"

[Sidenote: Abú Nuwás († _circa_ 810 A.D.).]

By Europeans who know him only through the _Thousand and One Nights_ Abú
Nuwás is remembered as the boon-companion and court jester of "the good
Haroun Alraschid," and as the hero of countless droll adventures and
facetious anecdotes--an Oriental Howleglass or Joe Miller. It is often
forgotten that he was a great poet who, in the opinion of those most
competent to judge, takes rank above all his contemporaries and
successors, including even Mutanabbí, and is not surpassed in poetical
genius by any ancient bard.

Ḥasan b. Háni’ gained the familiar title of Abú Nuwás (Father of the
lock of hair) from two locks which hung down on his shoulders. He was
born of humble parents, about the middle of the eighth century, in
Aḥwáz, the capital of Khúzistán. That he was not a pure Arab the name
of his mother, Jallabán, clearly indicates, while the following verse
affords sufficient proof that he was not ashamed of his Persian blood:--

 "Who are Tamím and Qays and all their kin?
  The Arabs in God's sight are nobody."[527]

He received his education at Baṣra, of which city he calls himself a
native,[528] and at Kúfa, where he studied poetry and philology under
the learned Khalaf al-Aḥmar. After passing a 'Wanderjahr' among the
Arabs of the desert, as was the custom of scholars at that time, he made
his way to Baghdád and soon eclipsed every competitor at the court of
Hárún the Orthodox. A man of the most abandoned character, which he took
no pains to conceal, Abú Nuwás, by his flagrant immorality, drunkenness,
and blasphemy, excited the Caliph's anger to such a pitch that he often
threatened the culprit with death, and actually imprisoned him on
several occasions; but these fits of severity were brief. The poet
survived both Hárún and his son, Amín, who succeeded him in the
Caliphate. Age brought repentance--"the Devil was sick, the Devil a monk
would be." He addressed the following lines from prison to Faḍl b.
al-Rabí‘, whom Hárún appointed Grand Vizier after the fall of the

 "Faḍl, who hast taught and trained me up to goodness
  (And goodness is but habit), thee I praise.
  Now hath vice fled and virtue me revisits,
  And I have turned to chaste and pious ways.
  To see me, thou would'st think the saintly Baṣrite,
  Ḥasan, or else Qatáda, met thy gaze,[529]
  So do I deck humility with leanness,
  While yellow, locust-like, my cheek o'erlays.
  Beads on my arm; and on my breast the Scripture,
  Where hung a chain of gold in other days."[530]

The Díwán of Abú Nuwás contains poems in many different styles--_e.g._,
panegyric (_madíḥ), satire (_hijá_), songs of the chase
(ṭardiyyát_), elegies (_maráthí_), and religious poems (_zuhdiyyát_);
but love and wine were the two motives by which his genius was most
brilliantly inspired. His wine-songs (_khamriyyát_) are generally
acknowledged to be incomparable. Here is one of the shortest:--

 "Thou scolder of the grape and me,
    I ne'er shall win thy smile!
  Because against thee I rebel,
    'Tis churlish to revile.

  Ah, breathe no more the name of wine
    Until thou cease to blame,
  For fear that thy foul tongue should smirch
    Its fair and lovely name!

  Come, pour it out, ye gentle boys,
    A vintage ten years old,
  That seems as though 'twere in the cup
    A lake of liquid gold.

  And when the water mingles there,
    To fancy's eye are set
  Pearls over shining pearls close strung
    As in a carcanet."[531]

Another poem begins--

 "Ho! a cup, and fill it up, and tell me it is wine,
  For I will never drink in shade if I can drink in shine!
  Curst and poor is every hour that sober I must go,
  But rich am I whene'er well drunk I stagger to and fro.
  Speak, for shame, the loved one's name, let vain disguise alone:
  No good there is in pleasures o'er which a veil is thrown."[532]

Abú Nuwás practised what he preached, and hypocrisy at any rate cannot
be laid to his charge. The moral and religious sentiments which appear
in some of his poems are not mere cant, but should rather be regarded as
the utterance of sincere though transient emotion. Usually he felt and
avowed that pleasure was the supreme business of his life, and that
religious scruples could not be permitted to stand in the way. He even
urges others not to shrink from any excess, inasmuch as the Divine mercy
is greater than all the sins of which a man is capable:--

 "Accumulate as many sins thou canst:
  The Lord is ready to relax His ire.
  When the day comes, forgiveness thou wilt find
  Before a mighty King and gracious Sire,
  And gnaw thy fingers, all that joy regretting
  Which thou didst leave thro' terror of Hell-fire!"[533]

We must now bid farewell to Abú Nuwás and the licentious poets
(_al-shu‘ará al-mujján_) who reflect so admirably the ideas and manners
prevailing in court circles and in the upper classes of society which
were chiefly influenced by the court. The scenes of luxurious
dissipation and refined debauchery which they describe show us, indeed,
that Persian culture was not an unalloyed blessing to the Arabs any more
than were the arts of Greece to the Romans; but this is only the darker
side of the picture. The works of a contemporary poet furnish evidence
of the indignation which the libertinism fashionable in high places
called forth among the mass of Moslems who had not lost faith in
morality and religion.

[Sidenote: Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya (748-828 A.D.).]

Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya, unlike his great rival, came of Arab stock. He was bred
in Kúfa, and gained his livelihood as a young man by selling
earthenware. His poetical talent, however, promised so well that he set
out to present himself before the Caliph Mahdí, who richly rewarded him;
and Hárún al-Rashíd afterwards bestowed on him a yearly pension of
50,000 dirhems (about £2,000), in addition to numerous
extraordinary gifts. At Baghdád he fell in love with ‘Utba, a slave-girl
belonging to Mahdí, but she did not return his passion or take any
notice of the poems in which he celebrated her charms and bewailed the
sufferings that she made him endure. Despair of winning her affection
caused him, it is said, to assume the woollen garb of Muḥammadan
ascetics,[534] and henceforth, instead of writing vain and amatorious
verses, he devoted his powers exclusively to those joyless meditations
on mortality which have struck a deep chord in the hearts of his
countrymen. Like Abu ’l-‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí and others who neglected the
positive precepts of Islam in favour of a moral philosophy based on
experience and reflection, Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya was accused of being a
freethinker (_zindíq_).[535] It was alleged that in his poems he often
spoke of death but never of the Resurrection and the Judgment--a calumny
which is refuted by many passages in his Díwán. According to the
literary historian al-Ṣúlí († 946 A.D.), Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya believed in
One God who formed the universe out of two opposite elements which He
created from nothing; and held, further, that everything would be
reduced to these same elements before the final destruction of all
phenomena. Knowledge, he thought, was acquired naturally (_i.e._,
without Divine Revelation) by means of reflection, deduction, and
research.[536] He believed in the threatened retribution (_al-wa‘íd_)
and in the command to abstain from commerce with the world (_taḥrímu
’l-makásib_).[537] He professed the opinions of the Butrites,[538] a
subdivision of the Zaydites, as that sect of the Shí‘a was named which
followed Zayd b. Alí b. Ḥusayn b. ‘Alí b. Abí Ṭálib. He spoke evil
of none, and did not approve of revolt against the Government. He held
the doctrine of predestination (_jabr_).[539]

Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya may have secretly cherished the Manichæan views ascribed
to him in this passage, but his poems contain little or nothing that
could offend the most orthodox Moslem. The following verse, in which
Goldziher finds an allusion to Buddha,[540] is capable of a different
interpretation. It rather seems to me to exalt the man of ascetic life,
without particular reference to any individual, above all others:--

 "If thou would'st see the noblest of mankind,
  Behold a monarch in a beggar's garb."[541]

But while the poet avoids positive heresy, it is none the less true that
much of his Díwán is not strictly religious in the Muḥammadan sense and
may fairly be called 'philosophical.' This was enough to convict him of
infidelity and atheism in the eyes of devout theologians who looked
askance on moral teaching, however pure, that was not cast in the
dogmatic mould. The pretended cause of his imprisonment by Hárún
al-Rashíd--namely, that he refused to make any more love-songs--is
probably, as Goldziher has suggested, a popular version of the fact that
he persisted in writing religious poems which were supposed to have a
dangerous bias in the direction of free-thought.

His poetry breathes a spirit of profound melancholy and hopeless
pessimism. Death and what comes after death, the frailty and misery of
man, the vanity of worldly pleasures and the duty of renouncing
them--these are the subjects on which he dwells with monotonous
reiteration, exhorting his readers to live the ascetic life and fear God
and lay up a store of good works against the Day of Reckoning. The
simplicity, ease, and naturalness of his style are justly admired.
Religious poetry, as he himself confesses, was not read at court or by
scholars who demanded rare and obscure expressions, but only by pious
folk, traditionists and divines, and especially by the vulgar, "who like
best what they can understand."[542] Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya wrote for 'the man
in the street.' Discarding conventional themes tricked out with
threadbare artifices, he appealed to common feelings and matters of
universal experience. He showed for the first and perhaps for the last
time in the history of classical Arabic literature that it was possible
to use perfectly plain and ordinary language without ceasing to be a

Although, as has been said, the bulk of Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya's poetry is
philosophical in character, there remains much specifically Islamic
doctrine, in particular as regards the Resurrection and the Future Life.
This combination may be illustrated by the following ode, which is
considered one of the best that have been written on the subject of
religion, or, more accurately, of asceticism (_zuhd_):--

 "Get sons for death, build houses for decay!
  All, all, ye wend annihilation's way.
  For whom build we, who must ourselves return
  Into our native element of clay?
  O Death, nor violence nor flattery thou
  Dost use, but when thou com'st, escape none may.
  Methinks, thou art ready to surprise mine age,
  As age surprised and made my youth his prey.
  What ails me, World, that every place perforce
  I lodge thee in, it galleth me to stay?
  And, O Time, how do I behold thee run
  To spoil me? Thine own gift thou tak'st away!
  O Time! inconstant, mutable art thou,
  And o'er the realm of ruin is thy sway.
  What ails me that no glad result it brings
  Whene'er, O World, to milk thee I essay?
  And when I court thee, why dost thou raise up
  On all sides only trouble and dismay?
  Men seek thee every wise, but thou art like
  A dream; the shadow of a cloud; the day
  Which hath but now departed, nevermore
  To dawn again; a glittering vapour gay.
  This people thou hast paid in full: their feet
  Are on the stirrup--let them not delay!
  But those that do good works and labour well
  Hereafter shall receive the promised pay.
  As if no punishment I had to fear,
  A load of sin upon my neck I lay;
  And while the world I love, from Truth, alas,
  Still my besotted senses go astray.
  I shall be asked of all my business here:
  What can I plead then? What can I gainsay?
  What argument allege, when I am called
  To render an account on Reckoning-Day?
  Dooms twain in that dread hour shall be revealed,
  When I the scroll of these mine acts survey:
  Either to dwell in everlasting bliss,
  Or suffer torments of the damned for aye!"[543]

I will now add a few verses culled from the Díwán which bring the poet's
pessimistic view of life into clearer outline, and also some examples of
those moral precepts and sententious criticisms which crowd his pages
and have contributed in no small degree to his popularity.

 "The world is like a viper soft to touch that venom spits."[544]

 "Men sit like revellers o'er their cups and drink,
  From the world's hand, the circling wine of death."[545]

 "Call no man living blest for aught you see
  But that for which you blessed call the dead."[546]


 "'Tis not the Age that moves my scorn,
  But those who in the Age are born.
  I cannot count the friends that broke
  Their faith, tho' honied words they spoke;
  In whom no aid I found, and made
  The Devil welcome to their aid.
  May I--so best we shall agree--
  Ne'er look on them nor they on me!"[547]

 "If men should see a prophet begging, they would turn and scout him.
  Thy friend is ever thine as long as thou canst do without him;
  But he will spew thee forth, if in thy need thou come about him."[548]


 "'Tis only on the culprit sin recoils,
  The ignorant fool against himself is armed.
  Humanity are sunk in wickedness;
  The best is he that leaveth us unharmed."[549]

 "'Twas my despair of Man that gave me hope
  God's grace would find me soon, I know not how."[550]


 "Man's life is his fair name, and not his length of years;
  Man's death is his ill-fame, and not the day that nears.
  Then life to thy fair name by deeds of goodness give:
  So in this world two lives, O mortal, thou shalt live."[551]


 "Mere falsehood by its face is recognised,
  But Truth by parables and admonitions."[552]

 "I keep the bond of love inviolate
  Towards all humankind, for I betray
  Myself, if I am false to any man."[553]

 "Far from the safe path, hop'st thou to be saved?
  Ships make no speedy voyage on dry land."[554]

 "Strip off the world from thee and naked live,
  For naked thou didst fall into the world."[555]

 "Man guards his own and grasps his neighbours' pelf,
  And he is angered when they him prevent;
  But he that makes the earth his couch will sleep
  No worse, if lacking silk he have content."[556]

 "Men vaunt their noble blood, but I behold
  No lineage that can vie with righteous deeds."[557]

 "If knowledge lies in long experience,
  Less than what I have borne suffices me."[558]

 "Faith is the medicine of every grief,
  Doubt only raises up a host of cares."[559]

 "Blame me or no, 'tis my predestined state:
  If I have erred, infallible is Fate."[560]

Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya found little favour with his contemporaries, who seem to
have regarded him as a miserly hypocrite. He died, an aged man, in the
Caliphate of Ma’mún.[561] Von Kremer thinks that he had a truer genius
for poetry than Abú Nuwás, an opinion in which I am unable to concur.
Both, however, as he points out, are distinctive types of their time. If
Abú Nuwás presents an appalling picture of a corrupt and frivolous
society devoted to pleasure, we learn from Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya something of
the religious feelings and beliefs which pervaded the middle and lower
classes, and which led them to take a more earnest and elevated view of

With the rapid decline and disintegration of the ‘Abbásid Empire which
set in towards the middle of the ninth century, numerous petty dynasties
arose, and the hitherto unrivalled splendour of Baghdád was challenged
by more than one provincial court. These independent or semi-independent
princes were sometimes zealous patrons of learning--it is well known,
for example, that a national Persian literature first came into being
under the auspices of the Sámánids in Khurásán and the Buwayhids in
‘Iráq--but as a rule the anxious task of maintaining, or the ambition of
extending, their power left them small leisure to cultivate letters,
even if they wished to do so. None combined the arts of war and peace
more brilliantly than the Ḥamdánid Sayfu ’l-Dawla, who in 944 A.D. made
himself master of Aleppo, and founded an independent kingdom in Northern

  [Sidenote: Tha‘álibí's eulogy of Sayfu ’l-Dawla.]

  "The Ḥamdánids," says Tha‘álibí, "were kings and princes, comely of
  countenance and eloquent of tongue, endowed with open-handedness and
  gravity of mind. Sayfu ’l-Dawla is famed as the chief amongst them
  all and the centre-pearl of their necklace. He was--may God be
  pleased with him and grant his desires and make Paradise his
  abode!--the brightest star of his age and the pillar of Islam: by
  him the frontiers were guarded and the State well governed. His
  attacks on the rebellious Arabs checked their fury and blunted their
  teeth and tamed their stubbornness and secured his subjects against
  their barbarity. His campaigns exacted vengeance from the Emperor of
  the Greeks, decisively broke their hostile onset, and had an
  excellent effect on Islam. His court was the goal of ambassadors,
  the dayspring of liberality, the horizon-point of hope, the end of
  journeys, a place where savants assembled and poets competed for the
  palm. It is said that after the Caliphs no prince gathered around
  him so many masters of poetry and men illustrious in literature as
  he did; and to a monarch's hall, as to a market, people bring only
  what is in demand. He was an accomplished scholar, a poet himself
  and a lover of fine poetry; keenly susceptible to words of

Sayfu ’l-Dawla's cousin, Abú Firás al-Ḥamdání, was a gallant soldier
and a poet of some mark, who if space permitted would receive fuller
notice here.[563] He, however, though superior to the common herd of
court poets, is overshadowed by one who with all his faults--and they
are not inconsiderable--made an extraordinary impression upon his
contemporaries, and by the commanding influence of his reputation
decided what should henceforth be the standard of poetical taste in the
Muḥammadan world.

[Sidenote: Mutanabbí (915-965 A.D.).]

Abu ’l-Ṭayyib Ahmad b. Ḥusayn, known to fame as al-Mutanabbí, was
born and bred at Kúfa, where his father is said to have been a
water-carrier. Following the admirable custom by which young men of
promise were sent abroad to complete their education, he studied at
Damascus and visited other towns in Syria, but also passed much of his
time among the Bedouins, to whom he owed the singular knowledge and
mastery of Arabic displayed in his poems. Here he came forward as a
prophet (from which circumstance he was afterwards entitled
al-Mutanabbí, _i.e._, 'the pretender to prophecy'), and induced a great
multitude to believe in him; but ere long he was captured by Lu’lu’, the
governor of Ḥims (Emessa), and thrown into prison. After his release
he wandered to and fro chanting the praises of all and sundry, until
fortune guided him to the court of Sayfu ’l-Dawla at Aleppo. For nine
years (948-957 A.D.) he stood high in the favour of that cultured
prince, whose virtues he celebrated in a series of splendid eulogies,
and with whom he lived as an intimate friend and comrade in arms. The
liberality of Sayfu ’l-Dawla and the ingenious impudence of the poet are
well brought out by the following anecdote:--

  Mutanabbí on one occasion handed to his patron the copy of an ode
  which he had recently composed in his honour, and retired, leaving
  Sayfu ’l-Dawla to peruse it at leisure. The prince began to read,
  and came to these lines--

    _Aqil anil aqṭi‘ iḥmil ‘alli salli a‘id
     zid hashshi bashshi tafaḍḍal adni surra ṣili._[564]

   "_Pardon, bestow, endow, mount, raise, console, restore,
     Add, laugh, rejoice, bring nigh, show favour, gladden, give!_"

  Far from being displeased by the poet's arrogance, Sayfu ’l-Dawla
  was so charmed with his artful collocation of fourteen imperatives
  in a single verse that he granted every request. Under _pardon_ he
  wrote 'we pardon thee'; under _bestow_, 'let him receive such and
  such a sum of money'; under _endow_, 'we endow thee with an estate,'
  which he named (it was beside the gate of Aleppo); under _mount_,
  'let such and such a horse be led to him'; under _raise_, 'we do
  so'; under _console_, 'we do so, be at ease'; under _restore_, 'we
  restore thee to thy former place in our esteem'; under _add_, 'let
  him have such and such in addition'; under _bring nigh_, 'we admit
  thee to our intimacy'; under _show favour_, 'we have done so'; under
  _gladden_, 'we have made thee glad'[565]; under _give_, 'this we
  have already done.' Mutanabbí's rivals envied his good fortune, and
  one of them said to Sayfu ’l-Dawla--"Sire, you have done all that
  he asked, but when he uttered the words _laugh_, _rejoice_, why did
  not you answer, 'Ha, ha, ha'?" Sayfu ’l-Dawla laughed, and said,
  "You too, shall have your wish," and ordered him a donation.

Mutanabbí was sincerely attached to his generous master, and this
feeling inspired a purer and loftier strain than we find in the fulsome
panegyrics which he afterwards addressed to the negro Káfúr. He seems to
have been occasionally in disgrace, but Sayfu ’l-Dawla could deny
nothing to a poet who paid him such magnificent compliments. Nor was he
deterred by any false modesty from praising himself: he was fully
conscious of his power and, like Arabian bards in general, he bragged
about it. Although the verbal legerdemain which is so conspicuous in his
poetry cannot be reproduced in another language, the lines translated
below may be taken as a favourable and sufficiently characteristic
specimen of his style.

 "How glows mine heart for him whose heart to me is cold,
  Who liketh ill my case and me in fault doth hold!
  Why should I hide a love that hath worn thin my frame?
  To Sayfu ’l-Dawla all the world avows the same.
  Tho' love of his high star unites us, would that we
  According to our love might so divide the fee!
  Him have I visited when sword in sheath was laid,
  And I have seen him when in blood swam every blade:
  Him, both in peace and war the best of all mankind,
  Whose crown of excellence was still his noble mind.

  Do foes by flight escape thine onset, thou dost gain
  A chequered victory, half of pleasure, half of pain.
  So puissant is the fear thou strik'st them with, it stands
  Instead of thee, and works more than thy warriors' hands.
  Unfought the field is thine: thou need'st not further strain
  To chase them from their holes in mountain or in plain.
  What! 'fore thy fierce attack whene'er an army reels,
  Must thy ambitious soul press hot upon their heels?
  Thy task it is to rout them on the battle-ground;
  No shame to thee if they in flight have safety found.
  Or thinkest thou perchance that victory is sweet
  Only when scimitars and necks each other greet?

  O justest of the just save in thy deeds to me!
  _Thou_ art accused and thou, O Sire, must judge the plea.
  Look, I implore thee, well! Let not thine eye cajoled
  See fat in empty froth, in all that glisters gold![566]
  What use and profit reaps a mortal of his sight,
  If darkness unto him be indistinct from light?

  My deep poetic art the blind have eyes to see,
  My verses ring in ears as deaf as deaf can be.
  They wander far abroad while I am unaware,
  But men collect them watchfully with toil and care.
  Oft hath my laughing mien prolonged the insulter's sport,
  Until with claw and mouth I cut his rudeness short.
  Ah, when the lion bares his teeth, suspect his guile,
  Nor fancy that the lion shows to you a smile.
  I have slain the man that sought my heart's blood many a time,
  Riding a noble mare whose back none else may climb,
  Whose hind and fore-legs seem in galloping as one;
  Nor hand nor foot requireth she to urge her on.
  And O the days when I have swung my fine-edged glaive
  Amidst a sea of death where wave was dashed on wave!
  The desert knows me well, the night, the mounted men,
  The battle and the sword, the paper and the pen!"[567]

Finally an estrangement arose between Mutanabbí and Sayfu ’l-Dawla, in
consequence of which he fled to Egypt and attached himself to the
Ikhshídite Káfúr. Disappointed in his new patron, a negro who had
formerly been a slave, the poet set off for Baghdád, and afterwards
visited the court of the Buwayhid ‘Aḍudu ’l-Dawla at Shíráz. While
travelling through Babylonia he was attacked and slain by brigands in
965 A.D.

The popularity of Mutanabbí is shown by the numerous commentaries[568]
and critical treatises on his _Díwán_. By his countrymen he is generally
regarded as one of the greatest of Arabian poets, while not a few would
maintain that he ranks absolutely first. Abu ’l-‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí, himself
an illustrious poet and man of letters, confessed that he had sometimes
wished to alter a word here and there in Mutanabbí's verses, but had
never been able to think of any improvement. "As to his poetry," says
Ibn Khallikán, "it is perfection." European scholars, with the exception
of Von Hammer,[569] have been far from sharing this enthusiasm, as may
be seen by referring to what has been said on the subject by
Reiske,[570] De Sacy,[571] Bohlen,[572] Brockelmann,[573] and others. No
doubt, according to our canons of taste, Mutanabbí stands immeasurably
below the famous Pre-islamic bards, and in a later age must yield the
palm to Abú Nuwás and Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya. Lovers of poetry, as the term is
understood in Europe, cannot derive much æsthetic pleasure from his
writings, but, on the contrary, will be disgusted by the beauties hardly
less than by the faults which Arabian critics attribute to him.
Admitting, however, that only a born Oriental is able to appreciate
Mutanabbí at his full worth, let us try to realise the Oriental point of
view and put aside, as far as possible, our preconceptions of what
constitutes good poetry and good taste. Fortunately we possess abundant
materials for such an attempt in the invaluable work of Tha‘álibí, which
has been already mentioned.[574] Tha‘álibí (961-1038 A.D.) was nearly
contemporary with Mutanabbí. He began to write his _Yatíma_ about thirty
years after the poet's death, and while he bears witness to the
unrivalled popularity of the _Díwán_ amongst all classes of society, he
observes that it was sharply criticised as well as rapturously admired.
Tha‘álibí himself claims to hold the balance even. "Now," he says, "I
will mention the faults and blemishes which critics have found in the
poetry of Mutanabbí; for is there any one whose qualities give entire

 _Kafa ’l-mar’a faḍlan an tu‘adda ma‘áyibuh._

 'Tis the height of merit in a man that his faults can be numbered.

Then I will proceed to speak of his beauties and to set forth in due
order the original and incomparable characteristics of his style.

  The radiant stars with beauty strike our eyes
  Because midst gloom opaque we see them rise."

It was deemed of capital importance that the opening couplet
(_maṭla‘_) of a poem should be perfect in form and meaning, and that
it should not contain anything likely to offend. Tha‘álibí brings
forward many instances in which Mutanabbí has violated this rule by
using words of bad omen, such as 'sickness' or 'death,' or technical
terms of music and arithmetic which only perplex and irritate the hearer
instead of winning his sympathy at the outset. He complains also that
Mutanabbí's finest thoughts and images are too often followed by low and
trivial ones: "he strings pearls and bricks together" (_jama‘a bayna
’l-durrati wa-’l-ájurrati_). "While he moulds the most splendid
ornament, and threads the loveliest necklace, and weaves the most
exquisite stuff of mingled hues, and paces superbly in a garden of
roses, suddenly he will throw in a verse or two verses disfigured by
far-fetched metaphors, or by obscure language and confused thought, or
by extravagant affectation and excessive profundity, or by unbounded and
absurd exaggeration, or by vulgar and commonplace diction, or by
pedantry and grotesqueness resulting from the use of unfamiliar words."
We need not follow Tha‘álibí in his illustration of these and other
weaknesses with which he justly reproaches Mutanabbí, since we shall be
able to form a better idea of the prevailing taste from those points
which he singles out for special praise.

In the first place he calls attention to the poet's skill in handling
the customary erotic prelude (_nasíb_), and particularly to his
brilliant descriptions of Bedouin women, which were celebrated all over
the East. As an example of this kind he quotes the following piece,
which "is chanted in the salons on account of the extreme beauty of its
diction, the choiceness of its sentiment, and the perfection of its

 "Shame hitherto was wont my tears to stay,
  But now by shame they will no more be stayed,
  So that each bone seems through its skin to sob,
  And every vein to swell the sad cascade.
  She uncovered: pallor veiled her at farewell:
  No veil 'twas, yet her cheeks it cast in shade.
  So seemed they, while tears trickled over them,
  Gold with a double row of pearls inlaid.
  She loosed three sable tresses of her hair,
  And thus of night four nights at once she made;
  But when she lifted to the moon in heaven
  Her face, two moons together I surveyed."[575]

The critic then enumerates various beautiful and original features of
Mutanabbí's style, _e.g._--

1. His consecutive arrangement of similes in brief symmetrical clauses,

 "She shone forth like a moon, and swayed like a moringa-bough,
  And shed fragrance like ambergris, and gazed like a gazelle."

2. The novelty of his comparisons and images, as when he indicates the
rapidity with which he returned to his patron and the shortness of his
absence in these lines:--

 "I was merely an arrow in the air,
  Which falls back, finding no refuge there."

3. The _laus duplex_ or 'two-sided panegyric' (_al-madḥ, al-muwajjah_), which may be compared to a garment
having two surfaces of different colours but of equal beauty, as in the
following verse addressed to Sayfu ’l-Dawla:--

 "Were all the lives thou hast ta'en possessed by thee,
  Immortal thou and blest the world would be!"

Here Sayfu ’l-Dawla is doubly eulogised by the mention of his triumphs
over his enemies as well as of the joy which all his friends felt in the
continuance of his life and fortune.

4. His manner of extolling his royal patron as though he were speaking
to a friend and comrade, whereby he raises himself from the position of
an ordinary encomiast to the same level with kings.

5. His division of ideas into parallel sentences:--

 "We were in gladness, the Greeks in fear,
  The land in bustle, the sea in confusion."

From this summary of Tha‘álibí's criticism the reader will easily
perceive that the chief merits of poetry were then considered to lie in
elegant expression, subtle combination of words, fanciful imagery, witty
conceits, and a striking use of rhetorical figures. Such, indeed, are
the views which prevail to this day throughout the whole Muḥammadan
world, and it is unreasonable to denounce them as false simply because
they do not square with ours. Who shall decide when nations disagree? If
Englishmen rightly claim to be the best judges of Shakespeare, and
Italians of Dante, the almost unanimous verdict of Mutanabbí's
countrymen is surely not less authoritative--a verdict which places him
at the head of all the poets born or made in Islam. And although the
peculiar excellences indicated by Tha‘álibí do not appeal to us, there
are few poets that leave so distinct an impression of greatness. One
might call Mutanabbí the Victor Hugo of the East, for he has the grand
style whether he soars to sublimity or sinks to fustian. In the
masculine vigour of his verse, in the sweep and splendour of his
rhetoric, in the luxuriance and reckless audacity of his imagination we
recognise qualities which inspired the oft-quoted lines of the

 "Him did his mighty soul supply
  With regal pomp and majesty.
  A Prophet by his _diction_ known;
  But in the _ideas_, all must own,
  His miracles were clearly shown."[576]

One feature of Mutanabbí's poetry that is praised by Tha‘álibí should
not be left unnoticed, namely, his fondness for sententious moralising
on topics connected with human life; wherefore Reiske has compared him
to Euripides. He is allowed to be a master of that proverbial philosophy
in which Orientals delight and which is characteristic of the modern
school beginning with Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya, though some of the ancients had
already cultivated it with success (cf. the verses of Zuhayr, p. 118
_supra_). The following examples are among those cited by Bohlen (_op.
cit._, p. 86 sqq.):--

 "When an old man cries 'Ugh!' he is not tired
  Of life, but only tired of feebleness."[577]

 "He that hath been familiar with the world
  A long while, in his eye 'tis turned about
  Until he sees how false what looked so fair."[578]

 "The sage's mind still makes him miserable
  In his most happy fortune, but poor fools
  Find happiness even in their misery."[579]

[Sidenote: Abu ’l-‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí (973-1057 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: His visit to Baghdád.]

The sceptical and pessimistic tendencies of an age of social decay and
political anarchy are unmistakably revealed in the writings of the poet,
philosopher, and man of letters, Abu ’l-‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí, who was born in
973 A.D. at Ma‘arratu ’l-Nu‘mán, a Syrian town situated about twenty
miles south of Aleppo on the caravan road to Damascus. While yet a child
he had an attack of small-pox, resulting in partial and eventually in
complete blindness, but this calamity, fatal as it might seem to
literary ambition, was repaired if not entirely made good by his
stupendous powers of memory. After being educated at home under the eye
of his father, a man of some culture and a meritorious poet, he
proceeded to Aleppo, which was still a flourishing centre of the
humanities, though it could no longer boast such a brilliant array of
poets and scholars as were attracted thither in the palmy days of Sayfu
’l-Dawla. Probably Abu ’l-‘Alá did not enter upon the career of a
professional encomiast, to which he seems at first to have inclined: he
declares in the preface to his _Saqṭu ’l-Zand_ that he never eulogised
any one with the hope of gaining a reward, but only for the sake of
practising his skill. On the termination of his 'Wanderjahre' he
returned in 993 A.D. to Ma‘arra, where he spent the next fifteen years
of his life, with no income beyond a small pension of thirty dínárs
(which he shared with a servant), lecturing on Arabic poetry,
antiquities, and philology, the subjects to which his youthful studies
had been chiefly devoted. During this period his reputation was steadily
increasing, and at last, to adapt what Boswell wrote of Dr. Johnson on a
similar occasion, "he thought of trying his fortune in Baghdád, the
great field of genius and exertion, where talents of every kind had the
fullest scope and the highest encouragement." Professor Margoliouth in
the Introduction to his edition of Abu ’l-‘Alá's correspondence supplies
many interesting particulars of the literary society at Baghdád in which
the poet moved. "As in ancient Rome, so in the great Muḥammadan cities
public recitation was the mode whereby men of letters made their talents
known to their contemporaries. From very early times it had been
customary to employ the mosques for this purpose; and in Abu ’l-‘Alá's
time poems were recited in the mosque of al-Manṣúr in Baghdád. Better
accommodation was, however, provided by the Mæcenates who took a pride
in collecting savants and _littérateurs_ in their houses."[580] Such a
Mæcenas was the Sharíf al-Raḍí, himself a celebrated poet, who founded
the Academy called by his name in imitation, probably, of that founded
some years before by Abú Nasr Sábúr b. Ardashír, Vizier to the Buwayhid
prince, Bahá’u ’l-Dawla. Here Abu ’l-‘Alá met a number of distinguished
writers and scholars who welcomed him as one of themselves. The capital
of Islam, thronged with travellers and merchants from all parts of the
East, harbouring followers of every creed and sect--Christians and Jews,
Buddhists and Zoroastrians, Ṣábians and Ṣúfís, Materialists and
Rationalists--must have seemed to the provincial almost like a new
world. It is certain that Abu ’l-‘Alá, a curious observer who set no
bounds to his thirst for knowledge, would make the best use of such an
opportunity. The religious and philosophical ideas with which he was now
first thrown into contact gradually took root and ripened. His stay in
Baghdád, though it lasted only a year and a half (1009-1010 A.D.),
decided the whole bent of his mind for the future.

Whether his return to Ma‘arra was hastened, as he says, by want of means
and the illness of his mother, whom he tenderly loved, or by an
indignity which he suffered at the hands of an influential patron,[581]
immediately on his arrival he shut himself in his house, adopted a
vegetarian diet and other ascetic practices, and passed the rest of his
long life in comparative seclusion:--

 "Methinks, I am thrice imprisoned--ask not me
  Of news that need no telling--
  By loss of sight, confinement to my house,
  And this vile body for my spirit's dwelling."[582]

We can only conjecture the motives which brought about this sudden
change of habits and disposition. No doubt his mother's death affected
him deeply, and he may have been disappointed by his failure to obtain a
permanent footing in the capital. It is not surprising that the blind
and lonely man, looking back on his faded youth, should have felt weary
of the world and its ways, and found in melancholy contemplation of
earthly vanities ever fresh matter for the application and development
of these philosophical ideas which, as we have seen, were probably
suggested to him by his recent experiences. While in the collection of
early poems, entitled _Saqṭu ’l-Zand_ or 'The Spark of the Fire-stick'
and mainly composed before his visit to Baghdád, he still treads the
customary path of his predecessors,[583] his poems written after that
time and generally known as the _Luzúmiyyát_[584] arrest attention by
their boldness and originality as well as by the sombre and earnest tone
which pervades them. This, indeed, is not the view of most Oriental
critics, who dislike the poet's irreverence and fail to appreciate the
fact that he stood considerably in advance of his age; but in Europe he
has received full justice and perhaps higher praise than he deserves.
Reiske describes him as 'Arabice callentissimum, vasti, subtilis,
sublimis et audacis ingenii';[585] Von Hammer, who ranks him as a poet
with Abú Tammám, Buḥturí, and Mutanabbí, also mentions him honourably as
a philosopher;[586] and finally Von Kremer, who made an exhaustive study
of the _Luzúmiyyát_ and examined their contents in a masterly
essay,[587] discovered in Abu ’l-‘Alá, one of the greatest moralists of
all time whose profound genius anticipated much that is commonly
attributed to the so-called modern spirit of enlightenment. Here Von
Kremer's enthusiasm may have carried him too far; for the poet, as
Professor Margoliouth says, was unconscious of the value of his
suggestions, unable to follow them out, and unable to adhere to them
consistently. Although he builded better than he knew, the constructive
side of his philosophy was overshadowed by the negative and destructive
side, so that his pure and lofty morality leaves but a faint impression
which soon dies away in louder, continually recurring voices of doubt
and despair.

Abu ’l-‘Alá is a firm monotheist, but his belief in God amounted, as it
would seem, to little beyond a conviction that all things are governed
by inexorable Fate, whose mysteries none may fathom and from whose
omnipotence there is no escape. He denies the Resurrection of the dead,

 "We laugh, but inept is our laughter;
  We should weep and weep sore,
  Who are shattered like glass, and thereafter
  Re-moulded no more!"[588]

Since Death is the ultimate goal of mankind, the sage will pray to be
delivered as speedily as possible from the miseries of life and refuse
to inflict upon others what, by no fault of his own, he is doomed to

  "Amends are richly due from sire to son:
  What if thy children rule o'er cities great?
  That eminence estranges them the more
  From thee, and causes them to wax in hate,
  Beholding one who cast them into Life's
  Dark labyrinth whence no wit can extricate."[589]

There are many passages to the same effect, showing that Abu ’l-‘Alá
regarded procreation as a sin and universal annihilation as the best
hope for humanity. He acted in accordance with his opinions, for he
never married, and he is said to have desired that the following verse
should be inscribed on his grave:--

 "This wrong was by my father done
  To me, but ne'er by me to one."[590]

Hating the present life and weary of its burdens, yet seeing no happier
prospect than that of return to non-existence, Abu ’l-‘Alá can scarcely
have disguised from himself what he might shrink openly to avow--that he
was at heart, not indeed an atheist, but wholly incredulous of any
Divine revelation. Religion, as he conceives it, is a product of the
human mind, in which men believe through force of habit and education,
never stopping to consider whether it is true.

  "Sometimes you may find a man skilful in his trade, perfect in
  sagacity and in the use of arguments, but when he comes to religion
  he is found obstinate, so does he follow the old groove. Piety is
  implanted in human nature; it is deemed a sure refuge. To the
  growing child that which falls from his elders' lips is a lesson
  that abides with him all his life. Monks in their cloisters and
  devotees in the mosques accept their creed just as a story is handed
  down from him who tells it, without distinguishing between a true
  interpreter and a false. If one of these had found his kin among the
  Magians, he would have declared himself a Magian, or among the
  Ṣábians, he would have become nearly or quite like _them_."[591]

Religion, then, is "a fable invented by the ancients," worthless except
to those unscrupulous persons who prey upon human folly and
superstition. Islam is neither better nor worse than any other creed:--

 "Ḥanífs are stumbling,[592] Christians all astray,
  Jews wildered, Magians far on error's way.
  We mortals are composed of two great schools--
  Enlightened knaves or else religious fools."[593]

Not only does the poet emphatically reject the proud claim of Islam to
possess a monopoly of truth, but he attacks most of its dogmas in
detail. As to the Koran, Abu ’l-‘Alá could not altogether refrain from
doubting if it was really the Word of God, but he thought so well of the
style that he accepted the challenge flung down by Muḥammad and
produced a rival work (_al-Fuṣúl wa-’l-Gháyát_), which appears to
have been a somewhat frivolous parody of the sacred volume, though in
the author's judgment its inferiority was simply due to the fact that it
was not yet polished by the tongues of four centuries of readers.
Another work which must have sorely offended orthodox Muḥammadans is
the _Risálatu ’l-Ghufrán_ (Epistle of Forgiveness).[594] Here the
Paradise of the Faithful becomes a glorified salon tenanted by various
heathen poets who have been forgiven--hence the title--and received
among the Blest. This idea is carried out with much ingenuity and in a
spirit of audacious burlesque that reminds us of Lucian. The poets are
presented in a series of imaginary conversations with a certain Shaykh
‘Alí b. Manṣúr, to whom the work is addressed, reciting and
explaining their verses, quarrelling with one another, and generally
behaving as literary Bohemians. The second part contains a number of
anecdotes relating to the _zindíqs_ or freethinkers of Islam
interspersed with quotations from their poetry and reflections on the
nature of their belief, which Abu ’l-‘Alá condemns while expressing a
pious hope that they are not so black as they paint themselves. At this
time it may have suited him--he was over sixty--to assume the attitude
of charitable orthodoxy. Like so many wise men of the East, he practised
dissimulation as a fine art--

 "I lift my voice to utter lies absurd,
  But when I speak the truth, my hushed tones scarce are heard."[595]

In the _Luzúmiyyát_, however, he often unmasks. Thus he describes as
idolatrous relics the two Pillars of the Ka‘ba and the Black Stone,
venerated by every Moslem, and calls the Pilgrimage itself 'a heathen's
journey' (_riḥlatu jáhiliyyin_). The following sentiments do him
honour, but they would have been rank heresy at Mecca:--

 "Praise God and pray,
  Walk seventy times, not seven, the Temple round--
  And impious remain!
  Devout is he alone who, when he may
  Feast his desires, is found
  With courage to abstain."[596]

It is needless to give further instances of the poet's contempt for the
Muḥammadan articles of faith. Considering that he assailed persons as
well as principles, and lashed with bitter invective the powerful class
of the _‘Ulamá_, the clerical and legal representatives of Islam, we may
wonder that the accusation of heresy brought against him was never
pushed home and had no serious consequences. The question was warmly
argued on both sides, and though Abu ’l-‘Alá was pronounced by the
majority to be a freethinker and materialist, he did not lack defenders
who quoted chapter and verse to prove that he was nothing of the kind.
It must be remembered that his works contain no philosophical system;
that his opinions have to be gathered from the ideas which he scatters
incoherently, and for the most part in guarded language, through a long
succession of rhymes; and that this task, already arduous enough, is
complicated by the not infrequent occurrence of sentiments which are
blamelessly orthodox and entirely contradictory to the rest. A brilliant
writer, familiar with Eastern ways of thinking, has observed that in
general the conscience of an Asiatic is composed of the following
ingredients: (1) an almost bare religious designation; (2) a more or
less lively belief in certain doctrines of the creed which he professes;
(3) a resolute opposition to many of its doctrines, even if they should
be the most essential; (4) a fund of ideas relating to completely alien
theories, which occupies more or less room; (5) a constant tendency to
get rid of these ideas and theories and to replace the old by new.[597]
Such phenomena will account for a great deal of logical inconsistency,
but we should beware of invoking them too confidently in this case. Abu
’l-‘Alá with his keen intellect and unfanatical temperament was not the
man to let himself be mystified. Still lamer is the explanation offered
by some Muḥammadan critics, that his thoughts were decided by the
necessities of the difficult metre in which he wrote. It is conceivable
that he may sometimes have doubted his own doubts and given Islam the
benefit, but Von Kremer's conclusion is probably near the truth, namely,
that where the poet speaks as a good Moslem, his phrases if they are not
purely conventional are introduced of set purpose to foil his pious
antagonists or to throw them off the scent. Although he was not without
religion in the larger sense of the word, unprejudiced students of the
later poems must recognise that from the orthodox standpoint he was
justly branded as an infidel. The following translations will serve to
illustrate the negative side of his philosophy:--

 "Falsehood hath so corrupted all the world
  That wrangling sects each other's gospel chide;
  But were not hate Man's natural element,
  Churches and mosques had risen side by side."[598]

 "What is Religion? A maid kept close that no eye may view her;
  The price of her wedding-gifts and dowry baffles the wooer.
  Of all the goodly doctrine that I from the pulpit heard
  My heart has never accepted so much as a single word!"[599]

 "The pillars of this earth are four,
    Which lend to human life a base;
    God shaped two vessels, Time and Space,
  The world and all its folk to store.

 "That which Time holds, in ignorance
    It holds--why vent on it our spite?
    Man is no cave-bound eremite,
  But still an eager spy on Chance.

 "He trembles to be laid asleep,
    Tho' worn and old and weary grown.
    We laugh and weep by Fate alone,
  Time moves us not to laugh or weep;

 "Yet we accuse it innocent,
    Which, could it speak, might us accuse,
    Our best and worst, at will to choose,
  United in a sinful bent."[600]

 "'The stars' conjunction comes, divinely sent,
  And lo, the veil o'er every creed is rent.
  No realm is founded that escapes decay,
  The firmest structure soon dissolves away.[601]
  With sadness deep a thoughtful mind must scan
  Religion made to serve the pelf of Man.
  Fear thine own children: sparks at random flung
  Consume the very tinder whence they sprung.
  Evil are all men; I distinguish not
  That part or this: the race entire I blot.
  Trust none, however near akin, tho' he
  A perfect sense of honour show to thee,
  Thy self is the worst foe to be withstood:
  Be on thy guard in hours of solitude."

       *       *       *       *       *

 "Desire a venerable shaykh to cite
  Reason for his doctrine, he is gravelled quite.
  What! shall I ripen ere a leaf is seen?
  The tree bears only when 'tis clad in green."[602]

 "How have I provoked your enmity?
  Christ or Muḥammad, 'tis one to me.
  No rays of dawn our path illume,
  We are sunk together in ceaseless gloom.
  Can blind perceptions lead aright,
  Or blear eyes ever have clear sight?
  Well may a body racked with pain
  Envy mouldering bones in vain;
  Yet comes a day when the weary sword
  Reposes, to its sheath restored.
  Ah, who to me a frame will give
  As clod or stone insensitive?--
  For when spirit is joined to flesh, the pair
  Anguish of mortal sickness share.
  O Wind, be still, if wind thy name,
  O Flame, die out, if thou art flame!"[603]

Pessimist and sceptic as he was, Abu ’l-‘Alá denies more than he
affirms, but although he rejected the dogmas of positive religion, he
did not fall into utter unbelief; for he found within himself a moral
law to which he could not refuse obedience.

 "Take Reason for thy guide and do what she
  Approves, the best of counsellors in sooth.
  Accept no law the Pentateuch lays down:
  Not there is what thou seekest--the plain truth."[604]

He insists repeatedly that virtue is its own reward.

 "Oh, purge the good thou dost from hope of recompense
  Or profit, as if thou wert one that sells his wares."[605]

His creed is that of a philosopher and ascetic. Slay no living creature,
he says; better spare a flea than give alms. Yet he prefers active
piety, active humanity, to fasting and prayer. "The gist of his moral
teaching is to inculcate as the highest and holiest duty a conscientious
fulfilment of one's obligations with equal warmth and affection towards
all living beings."[606]

Abu ’l-‘Alá died in 1057 A.D., at the age of eighty-four. About ten
years before this time, the Persian poet and traveller, Náṣir-i
Khusraw, passed through Ma‘arra on his way to Egypt. He describes Abu
’l-‘Alá as the chief man in the town, very rich, revered by the
inhabitants, and surrounded by more than two hundred students who came
from all parts to attend his lectures on literature and poetry.[607] We
may set this trustworthy notice against the doleful account which Abu
’l-‘Alá gives of himself in his letters and other works. If not among
the greatest Muḥammadan poets, he is undoubtedly one of the most
original and attractive. After Mutanabbí, even after Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya, he
must appear strangely modern to the European reader. It is astonishing
to reflect that a spirit so unconventional, so free from dogmatic
prejudice, so rational in spite of his pessimism and deeply religious
notwithstanding his attacks on revealed religion, should have ended his
life in a Syrian country-town some years before the battle of Senlac.
Although he did not meddle with politics and held aloof from every sect,
he could truly say of himself, "I am the son of my time" (_ghadawtu ’bna
waqtí_).[608] His poems leave no aspect of the age untouched, and
present a vivid picture of degeneracy and corruption, in which tyrannous
rulers, venal judges, hypocritical and unscrupulous theologians,
swindling astrologers, roving swarms of dervishes and godless
Carmathians occupy a prominent place.[609]

Although the reader may think that too much space has been already
devoted to poetry, I will venture by way of concluding the subject to
mention very briefly a few well-known names which cannot be altogether
omitted from a work of this kind.

[Sidenote: Abú Tammám and Buḥturí.]

Abú Tammám (Ḥabíb b. Aws) and Buḥturí, both of whom flourished in the
ninth century, were distinguished court poets of the same type as
Mutanabbí, but their reputation rests more securely on the anthologies
which they compiled under the title of _Ḥamása_ (see p. 129 seq.).

[Sidenote: Ibnu ’l-Mu‘tazz (861-908 A.D.).]

Abu ’l-‘Abbás ‘Abdulláh, the son of the Caliph al-Mu‘tazz, was a
versatile poet and man of letters, who showed his originality by the
works which he produced in two novel styles of composition. It has often
been remarked that the Arabs have no great epos like the Iliad or the
Persian _Sháhnáma_, but only prose narratives which, though sometimes
epical in tone, are better described as historical romances. Ibnu
’l-Mu‘tazz could not supply the deficiency. He wrote, however, in praise
of his cousin, the Caliph Mu‘taḍid, a metrical epic in miniature,
commencing with a graphic delineation of the wretched state to which the
Empire had been reduced by the rapacity and tyranny of the Turkish
mercenaries. He composed also, besides an anthology of Bacchanalian
pieces, the first important work on Poetics (_Kitábu ’l-Badí‘_). A sad
destiny was in store for this accomplished prince. On the death of the
Caliph Muktarí he was called to the throne, but a few hours after his
accession he was overpowered by the partisans of Muqtadir, who strangled
him as soon as they discovered his hiding-place. Picturing the scene,
one thinks almost inevitably of Nero's dying words, _Qualis artifex

[Sidenote: ‘Umar Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ (1181-1235 A.D.).]

The mystical poetry of the Arabs is far inferior, as a whole, to that of
the Persians. Fervour and passion it has in the highest degree, but it
lacks range and substance, not to speak of imaginative and speculative
power. ‘Umar Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ, though he is undoubtedly the poet of Arabian
mysticism, cannot sustain a comparison with his great Persian
contemporary, Jalálu’l-Dín Rúmí († 1273 A.D.); he surpasses him only in
the intense glow and exquisite beauty of his diction. It will be
convenient to reserve a further account of Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ for the next
chapter, where we shall discuss the development of Ṣúfiism during this

Finally two writers claim attention who owe their reputation to single
poems--a by no means rare phenomenon in the history of Arabic
literature. One of these universally celebrated odes is the _Lámiyyatu
’l-‘Ajam_ (the ode rhyming in _l_ of the non-Arabs) composed in the year
1111 A.D. by Ṭughrá’í; the other is the _Burda_ (Mantle Ode) of
Búṣírí, which I take the liberty of mentioning in this chapter,
although its author died some forty years after the Mongol Invasion.

[Sidenote: Ṭughrá’í († _circa_ 1120 A.D.).]

Ḥasan b. ‘Alí al-Ṭughrá’í was of Persian descent and a native of
Iṣfahán.[610] He held the offices of _kátib_ (secretary) and _munshí_ or
_ṭughrá’í_ (chancellor) under the great Seljúq Sultans, Maliksháh and
Muḥammad, and afterwards became Vizier to the Seljúqid prince Ghiyáthu
’l-Dín Mas‘úd[611] in Mosul. He derived the title by which he is
generally known from the royal signature (_ṭughrá_) which it was his
duty to indite on all State papers over the initial _Bismilláh_. The
_Lámiyyatu ’l-‘Ajam_ is so called with reference to Shanfará's renowned
poem, the _Lámiyyatu ’l-‘Arab_ (see p. 79 seq.), which rhymes in the
same letter; otherwise the two odes have only this in common,[612] that
whereas Shanfará depicts the hardships of an outlaw's life in the
desert, Ṭughrá’í, writing in Baghdád, laments the evil times on which he
has fallen, and complains that younger rivals, base and servile men, are
preferred to him, while he is left friendless and neglected in his old

[Sidenote: Búṣírí († _circa_ 1296 A.D.).]

The _Qaṣídatu ’l-Burda_ (Mantle Ode) of al-Búṣírí[613] is a hymn in
praise of the Prophet. Its author was born in Egypt in 1212 A.D. We know
scarcely anything concerning his life, which, as he himself declares,
was passed in writing poetry and in paying court to the great[614]; but
his biographers tell us that he supported himself by copying
manuscripts, and that he was a disciple of the eminent Ṣúfí, Abu
’l-‘Abbás Aḥmad al-Marsí. It is said that he composed the _Burda_ while
suffering from a stroke which paralysed one half of his body. After
praying God to heal him, he began to recite the poem. Presently he fell
asleep and dreamed that he saw the Prophet, who touched his palsied side
and threw his mantle (_burda_) over him.[615] "Then," said al-Búṣírí, "I
awoke and found myself able to rise." However this may be, the Mantle
Ode is held in extraordinary veneration by Muḥammadans. Its verses are
often learned by heart and inscribed in golden letters on the walls of
public buildings; and not only is the whole poem regarded as a charm
against evil, but some peculiar magical power is supposed to reside in
each verse separately. Although its poetical merit is no more than
respectable, the _Burda_ may be read with pleasure on account of its
smooth and elegant style, and with interest as setting forth in brief
compass the mediæval legend of the Prophet--a legend full of prodigies
and miracles in which the historical figure of Muḥammad is glorified
almost beyond recognition.

[Sidenote: Rhymed prose.]

Rhymed prose (_saj‘_) long retained the religious associations which it
possessed in Pre-islamic times and which were consecrated, for all
Moslems, by its use in the Koran. About the middle of the ninth century
it began to appear in the public sermons (_khuṭab_, sing.
_khuṭba_) of the Caliphs and their viceroys, and it was still further
developed by professional preachers, like Ibn Nubáta († 984 A.D.), and
by official secretaries, like Ibráhím b. Hilál al-Ṣábí († 994 A.D.).
Henceforth rhyme becomes a distinctive and almost indispensable feature
of rhetorical prose.

[Sidenote: Badí‘u ’l-Zamán al-Hamadhání († 1007 A.D.).]

The credit of inventing, or at any rate of making popular, a new and
remarkable form of composition in this style belongs to al-Hamadhání (†
1007 A.D.), on whom posterity conferred the title _Badí‘u ’l-Zamán_,
_i.e._, 'the Wonder of the Age.' Born in Hamadhán (Ecbatana), he left
his native town as a young man and travelled through the greater part of
Persia, living by his wits and astonishing all whom he met by his talent
for improvisation. His _Maqámát_ may be called a romance or literary
Bohemianism. In the _maqáma_ we find some approach to the dramatic
style, which has never been cultivated by the Semites.[616] Hamadhání
imagined as his hero a witty, unscrupulous vagabond journeying from
place to place and supporting himself by the presents which his
impromptu displays of rhetoric, poetry, and learning seldom failed to
draw from an admiring audience. The second character is the _ráwí_ or
narrator, "who should be continually meeting with the other, should
relate his adventures, and repeat his excellent compositions."[617] The
_Maqámát_ of Hamadhání became the model for this kind of writing, and
the types which he created survive unaltered in the more elaborate work
of his successors. Each _maqáma_ forms an independent whole, so that the
complete series may be regarded as a novel consisting of detached
episodes in the hero's life, a medley of prose and verse in which the
story is nothing, the style everything.

[Sidenote: Ḥarírí (1054-1122 A.D.).]

Less original than Badí‘u ’l-Zamán, but far beyond him in variety of
learning and copiousness of language, Abú Muḥammad al-Qásim
al-Ḥarírí of Baṣra produced in his _Maqámát_ a masterpiece which
for eight centuries "has been esteemed as, next to the Koran, the chief
treasure of the Arabic tongue." In the Preface to his work he says that
the composition of _maqámát_ was suggested to him by "one whose
suggestion is a command and whom it is a pleasure to obey." This was the
distinguished Persian statesman, Anúshirwán b. Khálid,[618] who
afterwards served as Vizier under the Caliph Mustarshid Billáh
(1118-1135 A.D.) and Sultán Mas‘úd, the Seljúq (1133-1152 A.D.); but at
the time when he made Ḥarírí's acquaintance he was living in
retirement at Baṣra and devoting himself to literary studies.
Ḥarírí begged to be excused on the score that his abilities were
unequal to the task, "for the lame steed cannot run like the strong
courser."[619] Finally, however, he yielded to the request of
Anúshirwán, and, to quote his own words--

 "I composed, in spite of hindrances that I suffered
  From dullness of capacity and dimness of intellect,
  And dryness of imagination and distressing anxieties,
  Fifty Maqámát, which contain serious language and lightsome,
  And combine refinement with dignity of style,
  And brilliancies with jewels of eloquence,
  And beauties of literature with its rarities,
  Beside verses of the Koran wherewith I adorned them,
  And choice metaphors, and Arab proverbs that I interspersed,
  And literary elegancies and grammatical riddles,
  And decisions based on the (double) meaning of words,
  And original discourses and highly-wrought orations,
  And affecting exhortations as well as entertaining jests:
  The whole of which I have indited as by the tongue of Abú Zayd
    of Sarúj,
  The part of narrator being assigned to Harith son of Hammám
    of Baṣra."[620]

Ḥarírí then proceeds to argue that his _Maqámát_ are not mere frivolous
stories such as strict Moslems are bound to reprobate in accordance with
a well-known passage of the Koran referring to Naḍr b. Ḥárith, who
mortally offended the Prophet by amusing the Quraysh with the old
Persian legends of Rustam and Isfandiyár (Koran, xxxi, 5-6): "_There is
one that buyeth idle tales that he may seduce men from the way of God,
without knowledge, and make it a laughing-stock: these shall suffer a
shameful punishment. And when Our signs are read to him, he turneth his
back in disdain as though he heard them not, as though there were in his
ears a deafness: give him joy of a grievous punishment!_" Ḥarírí insists
that the _Assemblies_ have a moral purpose. The ignorant and malicious,
he says, will probably condemn his work, but intelligent readers will
perceive, if they lay prejudice aside, that it is as useful and
instructive as the fables of beasts, &c.,[621] to which no one has ever
objected. That his fears of hostile criticism were not altogether
groundless is shown by the following remarks of the author of the
popular history entitled _al-Fakhrí_ († _circa_ 1300 A.D.). This
writer, after claiming that his own book is more useful than the
_Ḥamása_ of Abú Tammám, continues:--

  [Sidenote: _Maqámát_ criticised as immoral.]

  "And, again, it is more profitable than the _Maqámát_ on which men
  have set their hearts, and which they eagerly commit to memory;
  because the reader derives no benefit from _Maqámát_ except
  familiarity with elegant composition and knowledge of the rules of
  verse and prose. Undoubtedly they contain maxims and ingenious
  devices and experiences; but all this has a debasing effect on the
  mind, for it is founded on begging and sponging and disgraceful
  scheming to acquire a few paltry pence. Therefore, if they do good
  in one direction, they do harm in another; and this point has been
  noticed by some critics of the _Maqámát_ of Ḥarírí and Badí‘u

[Sidenote: The character of Abú Zayd.]

Before pronouncing on the justice of this censure, we must consider for
a moment the character of Abú Zayd, the hero of Ḥarírí's work, whose
adventures are related by a certain Ḥárith b. Hammám, under which
name the author is supposed to signify himself. According to the general
tradition, Ḥarírí was one day seated with a number of savants in the
mosque of the Banú Ḥarám at Baṣra, when an old man entered,
footsore and travel-stained. On being asked who he was and whence he
came, he answered that his name of honour was Abú Zayd and that he came
from Sarúj.[623] He described in eloquent and moving terms how his
native town had been plundered by the Greeks, who made his daughter a
captive and drove him forth to exile and poverty. Ḥarírí was so
struck with his wonderful powers of improvisation that on the same
evening he began to compose the _Maqáma of the Banú Ḥarám_,[624]
where Abú Zayd is introduced in his invariable character: "a crafty old
man, full of genius and learning, unscrupulous of the artifices which he
uses to effect his purpose, reckless in spending in forbidden
indulgences the money he has obtained by his wit or deceit, but with
veins of true feeling in him, and ever yielding to unfeigned emotion
when he remembers his devastated home and his captive child."[625] If an
immoral tendency has been attributed to the _Assemblies_ of Ḥarírí it
is because the author does not conceal his admiration for this
unprincipled and thoroughly disreputable scamp. Abú Zayd, indeed, is
made so fascinating that we can easily pardon his knaveries for the sake
of the pearls of wit and wisdom which he scatters in splendid
profusion--excellent discourses, edifying sermons, and plaintive
lamentations mingled with rollicking ditties and ribald jests. Modern
readers are not likely to agree with the historian quoted above, but
although they may deem his criticism illiberal, they can hardly deny
that it has some justification.

Ḥarírí's rhymed prose might be freely imitated in English, but the
difficulty of rendering it in rhyme with tolerable fidelity has caused
me to abandon the attempt to produce a version of one of the
_Assemblies_ in the original form.[626] I will translate instead three
poems which are put into the mouth of Abú Zayd. The first is a tender
elegiac strain recalling far-off days of youth and happiness in his
native land:--

 "Ghassán is my noble kindred, Sarúj is my land of birth,
  Where I dwelt in a lofty mansion of sunlike glory and worth,
  A Paradise for its sweetness and beauty and pleasant mirth!

  And oh, the life that I led there abounding in all delight!
  I trailed my robe on its meadows, while Time flew a careless flight,
  Elate in the flower of manhood, no pleasure veiled from my sight.

  Now, if woe could kill, I had died of the troubles that haunt me here,
  Or could past joy ever be ransomed, my heart's blood had not been
  Since death is better than living a brute's life year after year.

  Subdued to scorn as a lion whom base hyenas torment.
  But Luck is to blame, else no one had failed of his due ascent:
  If she were straight, the conditions of men would never be bent."[627]

The scene of the eleventh _Assembly_ is laid in Sáwa, a city lying
midway between Hamadhán (Ecbatana) and Rayy (Rhages). "Ḥárith, in a
fit of religious zeal, betakes himself to the public burial ground, for
the purpose of contemplation. He finds a funeral in progress, and when
it is over an old man, with his face muffled in a cloak, takes his stand
on a hillock, and pours forth a discourse on the certainty of death and
judgment.... He then rises into poetry and declaims a piece which is one
of the noblest productions of Arabic literature. In lofty morality, in
religious fervour, in beauty of language, in power and grace of metre,
this magnificent hymn is unsurpassed."[628]

 "Pretending sense in vain, how long, O light of brain, wilt thou heap
    sin and bane, and compass error's span?
  Thy conscious guilt avow! The white hairs on thy brow admonish thee,
    and thou hast ears unstopt, O man!
  Death's call dost thou not hear? Rings not his voice full clear? Of
    parting hast no fear, to make thee sad and wise?
  How long sunk in a sea of sloth and vanity wilt thou play heedlessly,
    as though Death spared his prize?
  Till when, far wandering from virtue, wilt thou cling to evil ways
    that bring together vice in brief?
  For thy Lord's anger shame thou hast none, but let maim o'ertake thy
    cherished aim, then feel'st thou burning grief.
  Thou hail'st with eager joy the coin of yellow die, but if a bier pass
    by, feigned is thy sorry face;
  Perverse and callous wight! thou scornest counsel right to follow
    the false light of treachery and disgrace.
  Thy pleasure thou dost crave, to sordid gain a slave, forgetting
    the dark grave and what remains of dole;
  Were thy true weal descried, thy lust would not misguide nor thou
    be terrified by words that should console.
  Not tears, blood shall thine eyes pour at the great Assize, when thou
    hast no allies, no kinsman thee to save;
  Straiter thy tomb shall be than needle's cavity: deep, deep thy plunge
    I see as diver's 'neath the wave.
  There shall thy limbs be laid, a feast for worms arrayed, till utterly
    decayed are wood and bones withal,
  Nor may thy soul repel that ordeal horrible, when o'er the Bridge of
    Hell she must escape or fall.
  Astray shall leaders go, and mighty men be low, and sages shall cry,
   'Woe like this was never yet.'
  Then haste, my thoughtless friend, what thou hast marred to mend,
    for life draws near its end, and still thou art in the net.
  Trust not in fortune, nay, though she be soft and gay; for she will
    spit one day her venom, if thou dote;
  Abate thy haughty pride! lo, Death is at thy side, fastening, whate'er
    betide, his fingers on thy throat.
  When prosperous, refrain from arrogant disdain, nor give thy tongue
    the rein: a modest tongue is best.
  Comfort the child of bale and listen to his tale: repair thine actions
    frail, and be for ever blest.
  Feather the nest once more of those whose little store has vanished:
    ne'er deplore the loss nor miser be;
  With meanness bravely cope, and teach thine hand to ope, and spurn
    the misanthrope, and make thy bounty free.
  Lay up provision fair and leave what brings thee care: for sea
    the ship prepare and dread the rising storm.
  This, friend, is what I preach expressed in lucid speech. Good luck
    to all and each who with my creed conform!"

In the next _Maqáma_--that of Damascus--we find Abú Zayd, gaily attired,
amidst casks and vats of wine, carousing and listening to the music of
lutes and singing--

 "I ride and I ride through the waste far and wide, and I fling away
    pride to be gay as the swallow;
  Stem the torrent's fierce speed, tame the mettlesome steed, that
    wherever I lead Youth and Pleasure may follow.
  I bid gravity pack, and I strip bare my back lest liquor I lack when
    the goblet is lifted:
  Did I never incline to the quaffing of wine, I had ne'er been with
    fine wit and eloquence gifted.
  Is it wonderful, pray, that an old man should stay in a well-stored
    seray by a cask overflowing?
  Wine strengthens the knees, physics every disease, and from sorrow
    it frees, the oblivion-bestowing!
  Oh, the purest of joys is to live sans disguise unconstrained by
    the ties of a grave reputation,
  And the sweetest of love that the lover can prove is when fear and
    hope move him to utter his passion.
  Thy love then proclaim, quench the smouldering flame, for 'twill
    spark out thy shame and betray thee to laughter:
  Heal the wounds of thine heart and assuage thou the smart by the cups
    that impart a delight men seek after;
  While to hand thee the bowl damsels wait who cajole and enravish
    the soul with eyes tenderly glancing,
  And singers whose throats pour such high-mounting notes, when
    the melody floats, iron rocks would be dancing!
  Obey not the fool who forbids thee to pull beauty's rose when in
    full bloom thou'rt free to possess it;
  Pursue thine end still, tho' it seem past thy skill; let them say
    what they will, take thy pleasure and bless it!
  Get thee gone from thy sire, if he thwart thy desire; spread thy
    nets nor enquire what the nets are receiving;
  But be true to a friend, shun the miser and spend, ways of charity
    wend, be unwearied in giving.
  He that knocks enters straight at the Merciful's gate, so repent
    or e'er Fate call thee forth from the living!"

The reader may judge from these extracts whether the _Assemblies_ of
Ḥarírí are so deficient in matter as some critics have imagined. But,
of course, the celebrity of the work is mainly due to its consummate
literary form--a point on which the Arabs have always bestowed singular
attention. Ḥarírí himself was a subtle grammarian, living in
Baṣra, the home of philological science;[629] and though he wrote to
please rather than to instruct, he seems to have resolved that his work
should illustrate every beauty and nicety of which the Arabic language
is capable. We Europeans can see as little merit or taste in the verbal
conceits--equivoques, paronomasias, assonances, alliterations,
&c.--with which his pages are thickly studded, as in _tours de force_
of composition which may be read either forwards or backwards, or which
consist entirely of pointed or of unpointed letters; but our impatience
of such things should not blind us to the fact that they are intimately
connected with the genius and traditions of the Arabic tongue,[630] and
therefore stand on a very different footing from those euphuistic
extravagances which appear, for example, in English literature of the
Elizabethan age. By Ḥarírí's countrymen the _Maqámát_ are prized as
an almost unique monument of their language, antiquities, and culture.
One of the author's contemporaries, the famous Zamakhsharí, has
expressed the general verdict in pithy verse--

 "I swear by God and His marvels,
  By the pilgrims' rite and their shrine:
  Ḥarírí's _Assemblies_ are worthy
  To be written in gold each line."

[Sidenote: The religious literature of the period.]

Concerning some of the specifically religious sciences, such as Dogmatic
Theology and Mysticism, we shall have more to say in the following
chapter, while as to the science of Apostolic Tradition (_Ḥadíth_) we
must refer the reader to what has been already said. All that can be
attempted here is to take a passing notice of the most eminent writers
and the most celebrated works of this epoch in the field of religion.

[Sidenote: Málik b. Anas (713-795 A.D.).]

The place of honour belongs to the Imám Málik b. Anas of Medína, whose
_Muwaṭṭa’_ is the first great _corpus_ of Muḥammadan Law. He
was a partisan of the ‘Alids, and was flogged by command of the Caliph
Manṣúr in consequence of his declaration that he did not consider the
oath of allegiance to the ‘Abbásid dynasty to have any binding effect.

[Sidenote: Bukhárí and Muslim.]

The two principal authorities for Apostolic Tradition are Bukhárí († 870
A.D.) and Muslim († 875 A.D.), authors of the collections entitled
_Ṣaḥíḥ_. Compilations of a narrower range, embracing only those
traditions which bear on the _Sunna_ or custom of the Prophet, are the
_Sunan_ of Abú Dáwúd al-Sijistání († 889 A.D.), the _Jámi‘_ of Abú ‘Isá
Muḥammad al-Tirmidhí († 892 A.D.), the _Sunan_ of al-Nasá’í († 915
A.D.), and the _Sunan_ of Ibn Mája († 896 A.D.). These, together with the
_Ṣaḥíḥs_ of Bukhárí and Muslim, form the Six Canonical Books
(_al-kutub al-sitta_), which are held in the highest veneration. Amongst
the innumerable works of a similar kind produced in this period it will
suffice to mention the _Maṣábíḥu ’l-Sunna_ by al-Baghawí (†
_circa_ 1120 A.D.). A later adaptation called _Mishkátu
’l-Maṣábíḥ_ has been often printed, and is still extremely

[Sidenote: Máwardí († 1058 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Arabic authorities on Ṣúfiism.]

[Sidenote: Ghazálí († 1111 A.D.).]

Omitting the great manuals of Moslem Jurisprudence, which are without
literary interest in the larger sense, we may pause for a moment at the
name of al-Máwardí, a Sháfi‘ite lawyer, who wrote a well-known treatise
on politics--the _Kitábu ’l-Aḥkám al-Sulṭániyya_, or 'Book of the
Principles of Government.' His standpoint is purely theoretical. Thus he
lays down that the Caliph should be elected by the body of learned,
pious, and orthodox divines, and that the people must leave the
administration of the State to the Caliph absolutely, as being its
representative. Máwardí lived at Baghdád during the period of Buwayhid
ascendancy, a period described by Sir W. Muir in the following words:
"The pages of our annalists are now almost entirely occupied with the
political events of the day, in the guidance of which the Caliphs had
seldom any concern, and which therefore need no mention here."[631]
Under the ‘Abbásid dynasty the mystical doctrines of the Ṣúfís were
systematised and expounded. Some of the most important Arabic works of
reference on Ṣúfiism are the _Qútu ’l-Qulúb_, or 'Food of Hearts,' by
Abú Ṭálib al-Makkí († 996 A.D.); the _Kitábu ’l-Ta‘arruf li-Madhhabi
ahli ’l-Taṣawwuf_, or 'Book of Enquiry as to the Religion of the
Ṣúfís,' by Muḥammad b. Isḥáq al-Kalábádhí († _circa_ 1000 A.D.);
the _Ṭabaqátu ’l-Ṣúfiyya_, or 'Classes of the Ṣúfís,' by Abú
‘Abd al-Raḥmán al-Sulamí († 1021 A.D.); the _Ḥilyatu ’l-Awliyá_,
or 'Adornment of the Saints,' by Abú Nu‘aym al-Iṣfahání († 1038
A.D.); the _Risálatu ’l-Qushayriyya_, or 'Qushayrite Tract,' by Abu
’l-Qásim al-Qushayrí of Naysábúr († 1074 A.D.); the _Iḥyá’u ‘Ulúm
al-Dín_, or 'Revivification of the Religious Sciences,' by Ghazálí (†
1111 A.D.); and the _‘Awárifu ’l-Ma‘árif_, or 'Bounties of Knowledge,'
by Shihábu ’l-Dín Abú Ḥafṣ ‘Umar al-Suhrawardí († 1234 A.D.)--a
list which might easily be extended. In Dogmatic Theology there is none
to compare with Abú Ḥámid al-Ghazálí, surnamed 'the Proof of Islam'
(_Ḥujjatu ’l-Islám_). He is a figure of such towering importance that
some detailed account of his life and opinions must be inserted in a
book like this, which professes to illustrate the history of
Muḥammadan thought. Here, however, we shall only give an outline of
his biography in order to pave the way for discussion of his
intellectual achievements and his far-reaching influence.

  [Sidenote: Life of Ghazálí according to the _Shadharátu ’l-Dhahab_.]

  "In this year (505 A.H. = 1111 A.D.) died the Imám, who was the
  Ornament of the Faith and the Proof of Islam, Abú Ḥámid
  Muḥammad ... of Ṭús, the Sháfi‘ite. His death took place on the
  14th of the Latter Jumádá at Ṭábarán, a village near Ṭús. He
  was then fifty-five years of age. Ghazzálí is equivalent to Ghazzál,
  like ‘Aṭṭárí (for ‘Aṭṭár) and Khabbází (for Khabbáz), in
  the dialect of the people of Khurásán[632]: so it is stated by the
  author of the _‘Ibar_.[633] Al-Isnawí says in his
  _Ṭabaqát_[634]:--Ghazzálí is an Imám by whose name breasts are
  dilated and souls are revived, and in whose literary productions the
  ink-horn exults and the paper quivers with joy; and at the hearing
  thereof voices are hushed and heads are bowed. He was born at Ṭús
  in the year 450 A.H. = 1058-1059 A.D. His father used to spin wool
  (_yaghzilu ’l-ṣúf_) and sell it in his shop. On his deathbed he
  committed his two sons, Ghazzálí himself and his brother Aḥmad,
  to the care of a pious Ṣúfí, who taught them writing and educated
  them until the money left him by their father was all spent. 'Then,'
  says Ghazzálí, 'we went to the college to learn divinity (_fiqh_) so
  that we might gain our livelihood.' After studying there for some
  time he journeyed to Abú Naṣr al-Ismá‘ílí in Jurján, then to the
  Imámu ’l-Ḥaramayn[635] at Naysábúr, under whom he studied with
  such assiduity that he became the best scholastic of his
  contemporaries (_ṣára anẓara ahli zamánihi_), and he lectured
  _ex cathedrâ_ in his master's lifetime, and wrote books.... And on
  the death of his master he set out for the Camp[636] and presented
  himself to the Niẓámu ’l-Mulk, whose assembly was the
  alighting-place of the learned and the destination of the leading
  divines and savants; and there, as was due to his high merit, he
  enjoyed the society of the principal doctors, and disputed with his
  opponents and rebutted them in spite of their eminence. So the
  Niẓámu ’l-Mulk inclined to him and showed him great honour, and
  his name flew through the world. Then, in the year '84 (1091 A.D.)
  he was called to a professorship in the Niẓámiyya College at
  Baghdád, where a splendid reception awaited him. His words reached
  far and wide, and his influence soon exceeded that of the Emírs and
  Viziers. But at last his lofty spirit recoiled from worldly
  vanities. He gave himself up to devotion and dervishhood, and set
  out, in the year '88 (1095 A.D.), for the Ḥijáz.[637] On his
  return from the Pilgrimage he journeyed to Damascus and made his
  abode there for ten years in the minaret of the Congregational
  Mosque, and composed several works, of which the _Iḥyá_ is said
  to be one. Then, after visiting Jerusalem and Alexandria, he
  returned to his home at Ṭús, intent on writing and worship and
  constant recitation of the Koran and dissemination of knowledge and
  avoidance of intercourse with men. The Vizier Fakhru ’l-Mulk,[638]
  son of the Niẓámu ’l-Mulk, came to see him, and urged him by
  every means in his power to accept a professorship in the
  Niẓámiyya College at Naysábúr.[639] Ghazzálí consented, but after
  teaching for a time, resigned the appointment and returned to end
  his days in his native town."

[Sidenote: His principal works.]

Besides his _magnum opus_, the already-mentioned _Iḥyá_, in which he
expounds theology and the ethics of religion from the standpoint of the
moderate Ṣúfí school, Ghazálí wrote a great number of important
works, such as the _Munqidh mina ’l-Ḑalál_, or 'Deliverer from
Error,' a sort of 'Apologia pro Vitâ Suâ'; the _Kímiyá’u ’l-Sa‘ádat_, or
'Alchemy of Happiness,' which was originally written in Persian; and the
_Taháfutu ’l-Falásifa_, or 'Collapse of the Philosophers,' a polemical
treatise designed to refute and destroy the doctrines of Moslem
philosophy. This work called forth a rejoinder from the celebrated Ibn
Rushd (Averroes), who died at Morocco in 1198-1199 A.D.

[Sidenote: Shahrastání's 'Book of Religions and Sects.']

Here we may notice two valuable works on the history of religion, both
of which are generally known as _Kitábu ’l-Milal wa-’l-Niḥal_,[640]
that is to say, 'The Book of Religions and Sects,' by Ibn Ḥazm of
Cordova († 1064 A.D.) and Abu ’l-Fatḥ al-Shahrastání († 1153 A.D.).
Ibn Ḥazm we shall meet with again in the chapter which deals
specially with the history and literature of the Spanish Moslems.
Shahrastání, as he is named after his birthplace, belonged to the
opposite extremity of the Muḥammadan Empire, being a native of
Khurásán, the huge Eastern province bounded by the Oxus. Cureton, who
edited the Arabic text of the _Kitábu ’l-Milal wa-’l-Niḥal_ (London,
1842-1846), gives the following outline of its contents:--

  After five introductory chapters, the author proceeds to arrange his
  book into two great divisions; the one comprising the Religious, the
  other the Philosophical Sects. The former of these contains an
  account of the various Sects of the followers of Muḥammad, and
  likewise of those to whom a true revelation had been made (the _Ahlu
  ’l-Kitáb_, or 'People of the Scripture'), that is, Jews and
  Christians; and of those who had a doubtful or pretended revelation
  (_man lahú shubhatu ’l-Kitáb_), such as the Magi and the Manichæans.
  The second division comprises an account of the philosophical
  opinions of the Sabæans (Ṣábians), which are mainly set forth in
  a very interesting dialogue between a Sabæan and an orthodox
  Muḥammadan; of the tenets of various Greek Philosophers and some
  of the Fathers of the Christian Church; and also of the
  Muḥammadan doctors, more particularly of the system of Ibn Síná
  or Avicenna, which the author explains at considerable length. The
  work terminates with an account of the tenets of the Arabs before
  the commencement of Islamism, and of the religion of the people of

[Sidenote: Grammar and philology.]

[Sidenote: The invention of Arabic grammar.]

[Sidenote: The philogists of Baṣra.]

The science of grammar took its rise in the cities of Baṣra and Kúfa,
which were founded not long after Muḥammad's death, and which
remained the chief centres of Arabian life and thought outside the
peninsula until they were eclipsed by the great ‘Abbásid capital. In
both towns the population consisted of Bedouin Arabs, belonging to
different tribes and speaking many different dialects, while there were
also thousands of artisans and clients who spoke Persian as their
mother-tongue, so that the classical idiom was peculiarly exposed to
corrupting influences. If the pride and delight of the Arabs in their
noble language led them to regard the maintenance of its purity as a
national duty, they were equally bound by their religious convictions to
take decisive measures for ensuring the correct pronunciation and
interpretation of that "miracle of Divine eloquence," the Arabic Koran.
To this latter motive the invention of grammar is traditionally
ascribed. The inventor is related to have been Abu ’l-Aswad al-Du’ilí,
who died at Baṣra during the Umayyad period. "Abu ’l-Aswad, having
been asked where he had acquired the science of grammar, answered that
he had learned the rudiments of it from ‘Alí b. Abí Ṭálib. It is said
that he never made known any of the principles which he had received
from ‘Alí till Ziyád[641] sent to him the order to compose something
which might serve as a guide to the public and enable them to understand
the Book of God. He at first asked to be excused, but on hearing a man
recite the following passage out of the Koran, _anna ’lláha baríun mina
’l-mushrikína wa-rasúluhu_,[642] which last word the reader pronounced
_rasúlihi_, he exclaimed, 'I never thought that things would have come
to this.' He then returned to Ziyád and said, 'I will do what you
ordered.'"[643] The Baṣra school of grammarians which Abu ’l-Aswad is
said to have founded is older than the rival school of Kúfa and
surpassed it in fame. Its most prominent representatives were Abú ‘Amr
b. al-‘Alá († 770 A.D.), a diligent and profound student of the Koran,
who on one occasion burned all his collections of old poetry, &c., and
abandoned himself to devotion; Khalíl b. Aḥmad, inventor of the
Arabic system of metres and author of the first Arabic lexicon (the
_Kitábu ’l-‘Ayn_), which, however, he did not live to complete; the
Persian Síbawayhi, whose Grammar, entitled 'The Book of Síbawayhi,' is
universally celebrated; the great Humanists al-Aṣma‘í and Abú ‘Ubayda
who flourished under Hárún al-Rashid; al-Mubarrad, about a century
later, whose best-known work, the _Kámil_, has been edited by Professor
William Wright; his contemporary al-Sukkarí, a renowned collector and
critic of old Arabian poetry; and Ibn Durayd († 934 A.D.), a
distinguished philologist, genealogist, and poet, who received a pension
from the Caliph Muqtadir in recognition of his services on behalf of
science, and whose principal works, in addition to the famous ode known
as the _Maqṣúra_, are a voluminous lexicon (_al-Jamhara fi ’l-Lugha_)
and a treatise on the genealogies of the Arab tribes (_Kitábu

[Sidenote: The philogists of Kúfa.]

Against these names the school of Kúfa can set al-Kisá’í, a Persian
savant who was entrusted by Hárún al-Rashíd with the education of his
sons Amín and Ma’mún; al-Farrá († 822 A.D.), a pupil and compatriot of
al-Kisá’í; al-Mufaḍḍal al-Ḑabbí, a favourite of the Caliph
Mahdí, for whom he compiled an excellent anthology of Pre-islamic poems
(_al-Mufaḍḍaliyyát_), which has already been noticed[644]; Ibnu
’l-Sikkít, whose outspoken partiality for the House of ‘Alí b. Abí
Ṭálib caused him to be brutally trampled to death by the Turkish
guards of the tyrant Mutawakkil (858 A.D.); and Tha‘lab, head of the
Kúfa school in his time († 904 A.D.), of whose rivalry with al-Mubarrad
many stories are told. A contemporary, Abú Bakr b. Abi ’l-Azhar, said in
one of his poems:--

 "Turn to Mubarrad or to Tha‘lab, thou
  That seek'st with learning to improve thy mind!
  Be not a fool, like mangy camel shunned:
  All human knowledge thou with them wilt find.
  The science of the whole world, East and West,
  In these two single doctors is combined."[645]

Reference has been made in a former chapter to some of the earliest
Humanists, _e.g._, Ḥammád al-Ráwiya († 776 A.D.) and his slightly
younger contemporary, Khalaf al-Aḥmar, to their inestimable labours
in rescuing the old poetry from oblivion, and to the unscrupulous
methods which they sometimes employed.[646] Among their successors, who
flourished in the Golden Age of Islam, under the first ‘Abbásids, the
place of honour belongs to Abú ‘Ubayda († about 825 A.D.) and al-Asma‘í
(† about 830 A.D.).

[Sidenote: Abú ‘Ubayda.]

[Sidenote: Aṣma‘í.]

Abú ‘Ubayda Ma‘mar b. al-Muthanná was of Jewish-Persian race, and
maintained in his writings the cause of the Shu‘úbites against the Arab
national party, for which reason he is erroneously described as a
Khárijite.[647] The rare expressions of the Arabic language, the history
of the Arabs and their conflicts were his predominant study--"neither in
heathen nor Muḥammadan times," he once boasted, "have two horses met
in battle but that I possess information about them and their
riders"[648]; yet, with all his learning, he was not always able to
recite a verse without mangling it; even in reading the Koran, with the
book before his eyes, he made mistakes.[649] Our knowledge of Arabian
antiquity is drawn, to a large extent, from the traditions collected by
him which are preserved in the _Kitábu ’l-Aghání_ and elsewhere. He left
nearly two hundred works, of which a long but incomplete catalogue
occurs in the _Fihrist_ (pp. 53-54). Abú ‘Ubayda was summoned by the
Caliph Hárún al-Rashíd to Baghdád, where he became acquainted with
Aṣma‘í. There was a standing feud between them, due in part to
difference of character[650] and in part to personal jealousies. ‘Abdu
’l-Malik b. Qurayb al-Aṣma‘í was, like his rival, a native of
Baṣra. Although he may have been excelled by others of his
contemporaries in certain branches of learning, none exhibited in such
fine perfection the varied literary culture which at that time was so
highly prized and so richly rewarded. Whereas Abú ‘Ubayda was dreaded
for his sharp tongue and sarcastic humour, Aṣma‘í had all the
accomplishments and graces of a courtier. Abú Nuwás, the first great
poet of the ‘Abbásid period, said that Aṣma‘í was a nightingale to
charm those who heard him with his melodies. In court circles, where the
talk often turned on philological matters, he was a favourite guest, and
the Caliph would send for him to decide any abstruse question connected
with literature which no one present was able to answer. Of his numerous
writings on linguistic and antiquarian themes several have come down to
us, _e.g._, 'The Book of Camels' (_Kitábu ’l-Ibil_), 'The Book of
Horses' (_Kitábu ’l-Khayl_), and 'The Book of the Making of Man'
(_Kitábu Khalqi ’l-Insán_), a treatise which shows that the Arabs of the
desert had acquired a considerable knowledge of human anatomy. His work
as editor, commentator, and critic of Arabian poetry forms (it has been
said) the basis of nearly all that has since been written on the

[Sidenote: Ibnu ’l-Muqaffa‘ († _circa_ 760 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Ibn Qutayba († 899 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Jáḥiẓ († 869 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Ibn ‘Abdi Rabbihi († 940 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Abu ’l-Faraj al-Iṣfahání († 967 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Tha‘álibí († 1037 A.D.).]

Belles-lettres (_Adab_) and literary history are represented by a whole
series of valuable works. Only a few of the most important can be
mentioned here, and that in a very summary manner. The Persian Rúzbih,
better known as ‘Abdulláh Ibnu ’l-Muqaffa‘, who was put to death by
order of the Caliph Manṣúr, made several translations from the
Pehleví or Middle-Persian literature into Arabic. We possess a specimen
of his powers in the famous _Book of Kalíla and Dimna_, which is
ultimately derived from the Sanscrit _Fables of Bidpai_. The Arabic
version is one of the oldest prose works in that language, and is justly
regarded as a model of elegant style, though it has not the pungent
brevity which marks true Arabian eloquence. Ibn Qutayba, whose family
came from Merv, held for a time the office of Cadi at Dínawar, and lived
at Baghdád in the latter half of the ninth century. We have more than
once cited his 'Book of General Knowledge' (_Kitábu ’l-Ma‘árif_)[651]
and his 'Book of Poetry and Poets,' (_Kitábu ’l-Shi‘r wa-’l-Shu‘ará_),
and may add here the _Adabu ’l-Kátib_, or 'Accomplishments of the
Secretary,'[652] a manual of stylistic, dealing with orthography,
orthoepy, lexicography, and the like; and the _‘Uyúnu ’l-Akhbár_, or
'Choice Histories,'[653] a work in ten chapters, each of which is
devoted to a special theme such as Government, War, Nobility,
Friendship, Women, &c. ‘Amr b. Baḥr al-Jáḥiẓ of Baṣra was a
celebrated freethinker, and gave his name to a sect of the Mu‘tazilites
(_al-Jáḥiẓiyya_).[654] He composed numerous books of an anecdotal
and entertaining character. Ibn Khallikán singles out as his finest and
most instructive works the _Kitábu ’l-Ḥayawán_ ('Book of Animals'),
and the _Kitábu ’l-Bayán wa-’l-Tabyín_ ('Book of Eloquence and
Exposition'), which is a popular treatise on rhetoric. It so
happens--and the fact is not altogether fortuitous--that extremely
valuable contributions to the literary history of the Arabs were made by
two writers connected with the Umayyad House. Ibn ‘Abdi Rabbihi of
Cordova, who was descended from an enfranchised slave of the Spanish
Umayyad Caliph, Hishám b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmán (788-796 A.D.), has left us
a miscellaneous anthology entitled _al-‘Iqd al-Faríd_, or 'The Unique
Necklace,' which is divided into twenty-five books, each bearing the
name of a different gem, and "contains something on every subject."
Though Abu ’l-Faraj ‘Alí, the author of the _Kitábu ’l-Aghání_, was born
at Iṣfahán, he was an Arab of the Arabs, being a member of the tribe
Quraysh and a lineal descendant of Marwán, the last Umayyad Caliph.
Coming to Baghdád, he bent all his energies to the study of Arabian
antiquity, and towards the end of his life found a generous patron in
al-Muhallabí, the Vizier of the Buwayhid sovereign, Mu‘izzu ’l-Dawla.
His minor works are cast in the shade by his great 'Book of Songs.' This
may be described as a history of all the Arabian poetry that had been
set to music down to the author's time. It is based on a collection of
one hundred melodies which was made for the Caliph Hárún al-Rashíd, but
to these Abu ’l-Faraj has added many others chosen by himself. After
giving the words and the airs attached to them, he relates the lives of
the poets and musicians by whom they were composed, and takes occasion
to introduce a vast quantity of historical traditions and anecdotes,
including much ancient and modern verse. It is said that the Ṣáḥib
Ibn ‘Abbád,[655] when travelling, used to take thirty camel-loads of
books about with him, but on receiving the _Aghání_ he contented himself
with this one book and dispensed with all the rest.[656] The chief man
of letters of the next generation was Abú Mansúr al-Tha‘álibí (the
Furrier) of Naysábúr. Notwithstanding that most of his works are
unscientific compilations, designed to amuse the public rather than to
impart solid instruction, his famous anthology of recent and
contemporary poets--the _Yatímatu ’l-Dahr_, or 'Solitaire of the
Time'--supplies indubitable proof of his fine scholarship and critical
taste. Successive continuations of the _Yatíma_ were written by
al-Bákharzí († 1075 A.D.) in the _Dumyatu ’l-Qaṣr_, or 'Statue of the
Palace'; by Abu ’l-Ma‘álí al-Ḥaẓírí († 1172 A.D.) in the _Zínatu
’l-Dahr_, or 'Ornament of the Time'; and by the favourite of Saladin,
‘Imádu ’l-Dín al-Kátib al-Iṣfahání († 1201 A.D.), in the _Kharídatu
’l-Qaṣr_, or 'Virgin Pearl of the Palace.' From the tenth century
onward the study of philology proper began to decline, while on the
other hand those sciences which formerly grouped themselves round
philology now became independent, were cultivated with brilliant
success, and in a short time reached their zenith.

[Sidenote: History.]

The elements of History are found (1) in Pre-islamic traditions and (2)
in the _Ḥadíth_ of the Prophet, but the idea of historical
composition on a grand scale was probably suggested to the Arabs by
Persian models such as the Pehleví _Khudáy-náma_, or 'Book of Kings,'
which Ibnu ’l-Muqaffa‘ turned into Arabic in the eighth century of our
era under the title of _Siyaru Mulúki ’l-‘Ajam_, that is, 'The History
of the Kings of Persia.'

Under the first head Hishám Ibnu ’l-Kalbí († 819 A.D.) and his father
Muḥammad deserve particular mention as painstaking and trustworthy

[Sidenote: Histories of the Prophet and his Companions.]

Historical traditions relating to the Prophet were put in writing at an
early date (see p. 247). The first biography of Muḥammad (_Síratu
Rasúli ’lláh_), compiled by Ibn Isḥáq, who died in the reign of
Manṣúr (768 A.D.), has come down to us only in the recension made by
Ibn Hishám († 834 A.D.). This work as well as those of al-Wáqidí († 823
A.D.) and Ibn Sa‘d († 845 A.D.) have been already noticed.

Other celebrated historians of the ‘Abbásid period are the following.

[Sidenote: Baládhurí.]

Aḥmad b. Yaḥyá al-Baládhurí († 892 A.D.), a Persian, wrote an
account of the early Muḥammadan conquests (_Kitábu Futúḥi
’l-Buldán_), which has been edited by De Goeje, and an immense chronicle
based on genealogical principles, 'The Book of the Lineages of the
Nobles' (_Kitábu Ansábi ’l-Ashráf_), of which two volumes are

[Sidenote: Dínawarí.]

Abú Ḥánífa Aḥmad al-Dínawarí († 895 A.D.) was also of Íránian
descent. His 'Book of Long Histories' (_Kitábu ’l-Akhbár al-Ṭiwál_)
deals largely with the national legend of Persia, and is written
throughout from the Persian point of view.

[Sidenote: Ya‘qúbí.]

Ibn Wáḍiḥ al-Ya‘qúbí, a contemporary of Dínawarí, produced an
excellent compendium of universal history, which is specially valuable
because its author, being a follower of the House of ‘Alí, has preserved
the ancient and unfalsified Shí‘ite tradition. His work has been edited
in two volumes by Professor Houtsma (Leyden, 1883).

The Annals of Ṭabarí, edited by De Goeje and other European scholars
(Leyden, 1879-1898), and the Golden Meadows[658] (_Murúju ’l-Dhahab_) of
Mas‘údí, which Pavet de Courteille and Barbier de Meynard published with
a French translation (Paris, 1861-1877), have been frequently cited in
the foregoing pages; and since these two authors are not only the
greatest historians of the Muḥammadan East but also (excepting,
possibly, Ibn Khaldún) the most eminent of all who devoted themselves to
this branch of Arabic literature, we must endeavour to make the reader
more closely acquainted with them.

[Sidenote: Ṭabarí (838-923 A.D.).]

Abú Ja‘far Muḥammad b. Jarír was born in 838-839 A.D. at Ámul in
Ṭabaristán, the mountainous province lying along the south coast of
the Caspian Sea; whence the name, Ṭabarí, by which he is usually
known.[659] At this time ‘Iráq was still the principal focus of
Muḥammadan culture, so that a poet could say:--

 "I see a man in whom the secretarial dignity is manifest,
  One who displays the brilliant culture of ‘Iráq."[660]

Thither the young Ṭabarí came to complete his education. He travelled
by way of Rayy to Baghdád, visited other neighbouring towns, and
extended his tour to Syria and Egypt. Although his father sent him a
yearly allowance, it did not always arrive punctually, and he himself
relates that on one occasion he procured bread by selling the sleeves of
his shirt. Fortunately, at Baghdád he was introduced to ‘Ubaydulláh b.
Yaḥyá, the Vizier of Mutawakkil, who engaged him as tutor for his
son. How long he held this post is uncertain, but he was only
twenty-three years of age when his patron went out of office. Fifteen
years later we find him, penniless once more, in Cairo (876-877 A.D.).
He soon, however, returned to Baghdád, where he passed the remainder of
his life in teaching and writing. Modest, unselfish, and simple in his
habits, he diffused his encyclopædic knowledge with an almost superhuman
industry. During forty years, it is said, he wrote forty leaves every
day. His great works are the _Ta’ríkhu ’l-Rusul wa-’l-Mulúk_, or 'Annals
of the Apostles and the Kings,' and his _Tafsír_, or 'Commentary on the
Koran.' Both, even in their present shape, are books of enormous extent,
yet it seems likely that both were originally composed on a far larger
scale and were abbreviated by the author for general use. His pupils, we
are told, flatly refused to read the first editions with him, whereupon
he exclaimed: "Enthusiasm for learning is dead!" The History of
Ṭabarí, from the Creation to the year 302 A.H. = 915 A.D., is
distinguished by "completeness of detail, accuracy, and the truly
stupendous learning of its author that is revealed throughout, and that
makes the Annals a vast storehouse of valuable information for the
historian as well as for the student of Islam."[661] It is arranged
chronologically, the events being tabulated under the year (of the
Muḥammadan era) in which they occurred. Moreover, it has a very
peculiar form. "Each important fact is related, if possible, by an
eye-witness or contemporary, whose account came down through a series of
narrators to the author. If he has obtained more than one account of a
fact, with more or less important modifications, through several series
of narrators, he communicates them all to the reader _in extenso_. Thus
we are enabled to consider the facts from more than one point of view,
and to acquire a vivid and clear notion of them."[662] According to
modern ideas, Ṭabarí's compilation is not so much a history as a
priceless collection of original documents placed side by side without
any attempt to construct a critical and continuous narrative. At first
sight one can hardly see the wood for the trees, but on closer study the
essential features gradually emerge and stand out in bold relief from
amidst the multitude of insignificant circumstances which lend freshness
and life to the whole. Ṭabarí suffered the common fate of standard
historians. His work was abridged and popularised, the _isnáds_ or
chains of authorities were suppressed, and the various parallel accounts
were combined by subsequent writers into a single version.[663] Of the
Annals, as it left the author's hands, no entire copy exists anywhere,
but many odd volumes are preserved in different parts of the world. The
Leyden edition is based on these scattered MSS., which luckily comprise
the whole work with the exception of a few not very serious lacunæ.

[Sidenote: Mas‘údí († 956 A.D.).]

‘Alí b. Ḥusayn, a native of Baghdád, was called Mas‘údí after one of
the Prophet's Companions, ‘Abdulláh b. Mas‘úd, to whom he traced his
descent. Although we possess only a small remnant of his voluminous
writings, no better proof can be desired of the vast and various
erudition which he gathered not from books alone, but likewise from long
travel in almost every part of Asia. Among other places, he visited
Armenia, India, Ceylon, Zanzibar, and Madagascar, and he appears to have
sailed in Chinese waters as well as in the Caspian Sea. "My journey," he
says, "resembles that of the sun, and to me the poet's verse is

 "'We turn our steps toward each different clime,
  Now to the Farthest East, then West once more;
  Even as the sun, which stays not his advance
  O'er tracts remote that no man durst explore.'"[664]

He spent the latter years of his life chiefly in Syria and Egypt--for he
had no settled abode--compiling the great historical works,[665] of
which the _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_ is an epitome. As regards the motives which
urged him to write, Mas‘údí declares that he wished to follow the
example of scholars and sages and to leave behind him a praiseworthy
memorial and imperishable monument. He claims to have taken a wider view
than his predecessors. "One who has never quitted his hearth and home,
but is content with the knowledge which he can acquire concerning the
history of his own part of the world, is not on the same level as one
who spends his life in travel and passes his days in restless
wanderings, and draws forth all manner of curious and precious
information from its hidden mine."[666]

[Sidenote: The _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_.]

Mas‘údí has been named the 'the Herodotus of the Arabs,' and the
comparison is not unjust.[667] His work, although it lacks the artistic
unity which distinguishes that of the Greek historian, shows the same
eager spirit of enquiry, the same open-mindedness and disposition to
record without prejudice all the marvellous things that he had heard or
seen, the same ripe experience and large outlook on the present as on
the past. It is professedly a universal history beginning with the
Creation and ending at the Caliphate of Muṭí‘, in 947 A.D., but no
description can cover the immense range of topics which are discussed
and the innumerable digressions with which the author delights or
irritates his readers, as the case may be.[668] Thus, to pick a few
examples at random, we find a dissertation on tides (vol. i, p. 244); an
account of the _tinnín_ or sea-serpent (_ibid._, p. 267); of
pearl-fishing in the Persian Gulf (_ibid._, p. 328); and of the
rhinoceros (_ibid._, p. 385). Mas‘údí was a keen student and critic of
religious beliefs, on which subject he wrote several books.[669] The
_Murúju ’l-Dhahab_ supplies many valuable details regarding the
Muḥammadan sects, and also regarding the Zoroastrians and Ṣábians. There
is a particularly interesting report of a meeting which took place
between Aḥmad b. Ṭúlún, the governor of Egypt (868-877 A.D.), and an
aged Copt, who, after giving his views as to the source of the Nile and
the construction of the Pyramids, defended his faith (Christianity) on
the ground of its manifest errors and contradictions, arguing that its
acceptance, in spite of these, by so many peoples and kings was decisive
evidence of its truth.[670] Mas‘údí's account of the Caliphs is chiefly
remarkable for the characteristic anecdotes in which it abounds. Instead
of putting together a methodical narrative he has thrown off a brilliant
but unequal sketch of public affairs and private manners, of social life
and literary history. Only considerations of space have prevented me
from enriching this volume with not a few pages which are as lively and
picturesque as any in Suetonius. His last work, the _Kitábu ’l-Tanbíh
wa-’l-Ishráf_ ('Book of Admonition and Recension'),[671] was intended to
take a general survey of the field which had been more fully traversed
in his previous compositions, and also to supplement them when it seemed

[Sidenote: Minor historians.]

We must pass over the minor historians and biographers of this
period--for example, ‘Utbí († 1036 A.D.), whose _Kitáb al-Yamíní_
celebrates the glorious reign of Sultan Mahmúd of Ghazna; Khaṭíb of
Baghdád († 1071 A.D.), who composed a history of the eminent men of that
city; ‘Imádu ’l-Dín of Iṣfahán († 1201 A.D.), the biographer of
Saladin; Ibnu ’l-Qiftí († 1248 A.D.), born at Qifṭ (Coptos) in Upper
Egypt, whose lives of the philosophers and scientists have only come
down to us in a compendium entitled _Ta’ríkhu ’l-Ḥukamá_; Ibnu
’l-Jawzí († 1200 A.D.), a prolific writer in almost every branch of
literature, and his grandson, Yúsuf († 1257 A.D.)--generally called
Sibṭ Ibn al-Jawzí--author of the _Mir’átu ’l-Zamán_, or 'Mirror of
the Time'; Ibn Abí Uṣaybi‘a († 1270 A.D.), whose history of
physicians, the _‘Uyúnu ’l-Anbá_, has been edited by A. Müller (1884);
and the Christian, Jirjis (George) al-Makín († 1273 A.D.), compiler of a
universal chronicle--named the _Majmú‘ al-Mubárak_--of which the second
part, from Muḥammad to the end of the ‘Abbásid dynasty, was rendered
into Latin by Erpenius in 1625.

[Sidenote: Ibnu ’l-Athír († 1234 A.D.).]

A special notice, brief though it must be, is due to ‘Izzu ’l-Dín Ibnu
’l-Athír († 1234 A.D.). He was brought up at Mosul in Mesopotamia, and
after finishing his studies in Baghdád, Jerusalem, and Syria, he
returned home and devoted himself to reading and literary composition.
Ibn Khallikán, who knew him personally, speaks of him in the highest
terms both as a man and as a scholar. "His great work, the _Kámil_,[672]
embracing the history of the world from the earliest period to the year
628 of the Hijra (1230-1231 A.D.), merits its reputation as one of the
best productions of the kind."[673] Down to the year 302 A.H. the author
has merely abridged the Annals of Ṭabarí with occasional additions
from other sources. In the first volume he gives a long account of the
Pre-islamic battles (_Ayyámu ’l-‘Arab_) which is not found in the
present text of Ṭabarí; but De Goeje, as I learn from Professor
Bevan, thinks that this section was included in Ṭabarí's original
draft and was subsequently struck out. Ibnu ’l-Athír was deeply versed
in the science of Tradition, and his _Usdu ’l-Ghába_ ('Lions of the
Jungle') contains biographies of 7,500 Companions of the Prophet.

[Sidenote: Geographers.]

An immense quantity of information concerning the various countries and
peoples of the ‘Abbásid Empire has been preserved for us by the Moslem
geographers, who in many cases describe what they actually witnessed and
experienced in the course of their travels, although they often help
themselves liberally and without acknowledgment from the works of their
predecessors. The following list, which does not pretend to be
exhaustive, may find a place here.[674]

[Sidenote: Ibn Khurdádbih.]

1. The Persian Ibn Khurdádbih (first half of ninth century) was
postmaster in the province of Jibál, the Media of the ancients. His
_Kitábu ’l-Masálik wa-’l-Mamálik_ ('Book of the Roads and Countries'),
an official guide-book, is the oldest geographical work in Arabic that
has come down to us.

[Sidenote: Iṣṭakhrí and Ibn Ḥawqal.]

2. Abú Isḥáq al-Fárisí a native of Persepolis (Iṣṭakhr)--on
this account he is known as Iṣṭakhrí--wrote a book called
_Masáliku ’l-Mamálik_ ('Routes of the Provinces'), which was afterwards
revised and enlarged by Ibn Ḥawqal. Both works belong to the second
half of the tenth century and contain "a careful description of each
province in turn of the Muslim Empire, with the chief cities and notable

[Sidenote: Muqaddasí.]

3. Al-Muqaddasí (or al-Maqdisí), _i.e._, 'the native of the Holy City',
was born at Jerusalem in 946 A.D. In his delightful book entitled
_Aḥsanu ’l-Taqásím fí ma‘rifati ’l-Aqálím_ he has gathered up the
fruits of twenty years' travelling through the dominions of the

[Sidenote: Yáqút.]

4. Omitting the Spanish Arabs, Bakrí, Idrísí, and Ibn Jubayr, all of
whom flourished in the eleventh century, we come to the greatest of
Moslem geographers, Yáqút b. ‘Abdalláh (1179-1229 A.D.). A Greek by
birth, he was enslaved in his childhood and sold to a merchant of
Baghdád. His master gave him a good education and frequently sent him on
trading expeditions to the Persian Gulf and elsewhere. After being
enfranchised in consequence of a quarrel with his benefactor, he
supported himself by copying and selling manuscripts. In 1219-1220 A.D.
he encountered the Tartars, who had invaded Khwárizm, and "fled as naked
as when he shall be raised from the dust of the grave on the day of the
resurrection." Further details of his adventurous life are recorded in
the interesting notice by Ibn Khallikán.[675] His great Geographical
Dictionary (_Mu‘jamu ’l-Buldán_) has been edited in six volumes by
Wüstenfeld (Leipzig, 1866), and is described by Mr. Le Strange as "a
storehouse of geographical information, the value of which it would be
impossible to over-estimate." We possess a useful epitome of it, made
about a century later, viz., the _Maráṣidu ’l-Iṭṭilá‘_. Among
the few other extant works of Yáqút, attention maybe called to the
_Mushtarik_--a lexicon of places bearing the same name--and the _Mu‘jamu
’l-Udabá_, or 'Dictionary of Littérateurs,' which has been edited by
Professor Margoliouth for the Trustees of the Gibb Memorial Fund.

[Sidenote: The foreign sciences.]

[Sidenote: Translations from the Greek.]

[Sidenote: Ma’mún's encouragement of the New Learning.]

As regards the philosophical and exact sciences the Moslems naturally
derived their ideas and material from Greek culture, which had
established itself in Egypt, Syria, and Western Asia since the time of
Alexander's conquests. When the Syrian school of Edessa was broken up by
ecclesiastical dissensions towards the end of the fifth century of our
era, the expelled savants took refuge in Persia at the Sásánian court,
and Khusraw Anúshirwán, or Núshírwán (531-578 A.D.)--the same monarch
who welcomed the Neo-platonist philosophers banished from Athens by
Justinian--founded an Academy at Jundé-shápúr in Khúzistán, where Greek
medicine and philosophy continued to be taught down to ‘Abbásid days.
Another centre of Hellenism was the city of Ḥarrán in Mesopotamia.
Its inhabitants, Syrian heathens who generally appear in Muḥammadan
history under the name of 'Ṣábians,' spoke Arabic with facility and
contributed in no small degree to the diffusion of Greek wisdom. The
work of translation was done almost entirely by Syrians. In the
monasteries of Syria and Mesopotamia the writings of Aristotle, Galen,
Ptolemy, and other ancient masters were rendered with slavish fidelity,
and these Syriac versions were afterwards retranslated into Arabic. A
beginning was made under the Umayyads, who cared little for Islam but
were by no means indifferent to the claims of literature, art, and
science. An Umayyad prince, Khálid b. Yazíd, procured the translation of
Greek and Coptic works on alchemy, and himself wrote three treatises on
that subject. The accession of the ‘Abbásids gave a great impulse to
such studies, which found an enlightened patron in the Caliph Manṣúr.
Works on logic and medicine were translated from the Pehleví by Ibnu
’l-Muqaffa‘ († about 760 A.D.) and others. It is, however, the splendid
reign of Ma’mún (813-833 A.D.) that marks the full vigour of this
Oriental Renaissance. Ma’mún was no ordinary man. Like a true Persian,
he threw himself heart and soul into theological speculations and used
the authority of the Caliphate to enforce a liberal standard of
orthodoxy. His interest in science was no less ardent. According to a
story told in the _Fihrist_,[676] he dreamed that he saw the venerable
figure of Aristotle seated on a throne, and in consequence of this
vision he sent a deputation to the Roman Emperor (Leo the Armenian) to
obtain scientific books for translation into Arabic. The Caliph's
example was followed by private individuals. Three brothers,
Muḥammad, Aḥmad, and Ḥasan, known collectively as the Banú
Músá, "drew translators from distant countries by the offer of ample
rewards[677] and thus made evident the marvels of science. Geometry,
engineering, the movements of the heavenly bodies, music, and astronomy
were the principal subjects to which they turned their attention; but
these were only a small number of their acquirements."[678] Ma’mún
installed them, with Yaḥyá b. Abí Manṣúr and other scientists, in
the House of Wisdom (_Baytu ’l-Ḥikma_) at Baghdád, an institution
which comprised a well-stocked library and an astronomical observatory.
Among the celebrated translators of the ninth century, who were
themselves conspicuous workers in the new field, we can only mention the
Christians Qusṭá b. Lúqá and Ḥunayn b. Isḥáq, and the Ṣábian
Thábit b. Qurra. It does not fall within the scope of this volume to
consider in detail the achievements of the Moslems in science and
philosophy. That in some departments they made valuable additions to
existing knowledge must certainly be granted, but these discoveries
count for little in comparison with the debt which we owe to the Arabs
as pioneers of learning and bringers of light to mediæval Europe.[679]
Meanwhile it is only possible to enumerate a few of the most eminent
philosophers and scientific men who lived during the ‘Abbásid age. The
reader will observe that with rare exceptions they were of foreign

The leading spirits in philosophy were:--

[Sidenote: Kindí.]

1. Ya‘qúb b. Isḥáq al-Kindí, a descendant of the princely family of
Kinda (see p. 42). He was distinguished by his contemporaries with the
title _Faylasúfu ’l-‘Arab_, 'The Philosopher of the Arabs.' He
flourished in the first half of the ninth century.

[Sidenote: Fárábí.]

2. Abú Naṣr al-Fárábí († 950 A.D.), of Turkish race, a native of
Fáráb in Transoxania. The later years of his life were passed at Aleppo
under the patronage of Sayfu ’l-Dawla. He devoted himself to the study
of Aristotle, whom Moslems agree with Dante in regarding as "il maestro
di color che sanno."

[Sidenote: Ibn Síná.]

3. Abú ‘Alí Ibn Síná (Avicenna), born of Persian parents at Kharmaythan,
near Bukhárá, in the year 980 A.D. As a youth he displayed extraordinary
talents, so that "in the sixteenth year of his age physicians of the
highest eminence came to read medicine with him and to learn those modes
of treatment which he had discovered by his practice."[680] He was no
quiet student, like Fárábí, but a pleasure-loving, adventurous man of
the world who travelled from court to court, now in favour, now in
disgrace, and always writing indefatigably. His system of philosophy, in
which Aristotelian and Neo-platonic theories are combined with Persian
mysticism, was well suited to the popular taste, and in the East it
still reigns supreme. His chief works are the _Shifá_ (Remedy) on
physics, metaphysics, &c., and a great medical encyclopædia entitled the
_Qánún_ (Canon). Avicenna died in 1037 A.D.

4. The Spanish philosophers, Ibn Bájja (Avempace), Ibn Ṭufayl, and
Ibn Rushd (Averroes), all of whom flourished in the twelfth century
after Christ.

[Sidenote: Medicine, Astronomy, and Mathematics.]

[Sidenote: Bírúní 973-1048 A.D.]

The most illustrious name beside Avicenna in the history of Arabian
medicine is Abú Bakr al-Rází (Rhazes), a native of Rayy, near Teheran (†
923 or 932 A.D.). Jábir b. Ḥayyán of Tarsus († about 780 A.D.)--the
Geber of European writers--won equal renown as an alchemist. Astronomy
went hand in hand with astrology. The reader may recognise al-Farghání,
Abú Ma‘shar of Balkh († 885 A.D.) and al-Battání, a Ṣábian of
Ḥarrán († 929 A.D.), under the names of Alfraganus, Albumaser, and
Albategnius, by which they became known in the West. Abú ‘Abdalláh
al-Khwárizmí, who lived in the Caliphate of Ma’mún, was the first of a
long line of mathematicians. In this science, as also in Medicine and
Astronomy, we see the influence of India upon Muḥammadan
civilisation--an influence, however, which, in so far as it depended on
literary sources, was more restricted and infinitely less vital than
that of Greece. Only a passing reference can be made to Abú Rayḥán
al-Bírúní, a native of Khwárizm (Khiva), whose knowledge of the
sciences, antiquities, and customs of India was such as no Moslem had
ever equalled. His two principal works, the _Áthár al-Báqiya_, or
'Surviving Monuments,' and the _Ta’ríkhu ’l-Hind_, or 'History of
India,' have been edited and translated into English by Dr. Sachau.[681]

[Sidenote: The _Fihrist_.]

Some conception of the amazing intellectual activity of the Moslems
during the earlier part of the ‘Abbásid period, and also of the enormous
losses which Arabic literature has suffered through the destruction of
thousands of books that are known to us by nothing beyond their titles
and the names of their authors, may be gained from the _Fihrist_, or
'Index' of Muḥammad b. Isḥáq b. Abí Ya‘qúb al-Nadím al-Warráq
al-Baghdádí († 995 A.D.). Regarding the compiler we have no further
information than is conveyed in the last two epithets attached to his
name: he was a copyist of MSS., and was connected with Baghdád either by
birth or residence; add that, according to his own statement (p. 349, l.
14 sqq.), he was at Constantinople (_Dáru ’l-Rúm_) in 988 A.D., the same
year in which his work was composed. He may possibly have been related
to the famous musician, Isḥáq b. Ibráhím al-Nadím of Mosul († 849-850
A.D.), but this has yet to be proved. At any rate we owe to his industry
a unique conspectus of the literary history of the Arabs to the end of
the fourth century after the Flight. The _Fihrist_ (as the author
explains in his brief Preface) is "an Index of the books of all nations,
Arabs and foreigners alike, which are extant in the Arabic language and
script, on every branch of knowledge; comprising information as to their
compilers and the classes of their authors, together with the
genealogies of those persons, the dates of their birth, the length of
their lives, the times of their death, the places to which they
belonged, their merits and their faults, since the beginning of every
science that has been invented down to the present epoch: namely, the
year 377 of the Hijra." As the contents of the _Fihrist_ (which
considerably exceed the above description) have been analysed in detail
by G. Flügel (_Z.D.M.G._, vol. 13, p. 559 sqq.) and set forth in tabular
form by Professor Browne in the first volume of his _Literary History of
Persia_,[682] I need only indicate the general arrangement and scope of
the work. It is divided into ten discourses (_maqálát_), which are
subdivided into a varying number of sections (_funún_). Ibnu ’l-Nadím
discusses, in the first place, the languages, scripts, and sacred books
of the Arabs and other peoples, the revelation of the Koran, the order
of its chapters, its collectors, redactors, and commentators. Passing
next to the sciences which, as we have seen, arose from study of the
Koran and primarily served as handmaids to theology, he relates the
origin of Grammar, and gives an account of the different schools of
grammarians with the treatises which they wrote. The third discourse
embraces History, Belles-Lettres, Biography, and Genealogy; the fourth
treats of Poetry, ancient and modern. Scholasticism (_Kalám_) forms the
subject of the following chapter, which contains a valuable notice of
the Ismá‘ílís and their founder, ‘Abdulláh b. Maymún, as also of the
celebrated mystic, Ḥusayn b. Manṣúr al-Ḥalláj. From these and
many other names redolent of heresy the author returns to the orthodox
schools of Law--the Málikites, Ḥanafites, Sháfi‘ites and
Ẓáhirites; then to the jurisconsults of the Shí‘a, &c. The seventh
discourse deals with Philosophy and 'the Ancient Sciences,' under which
head we find some curious speculations concerning their origin and
introduction to the lands of Islam; a list of translators and the books
which they rendered into Arabic; an account of the Greek philosophers
from Thales to Plutarch, with the names of their works that were known
to the Moslems; and finally a literary survey of the remaining sciences,
such as Mathematics, Music, Astronomy, and Medicine. Here, by an abrupt
transition, we enter the enchanted domain of Oriental fable--the _Hazár
Afsán_, or Thousand Tales, Kalíla and Dimna, the Book of Sindbád, and
the legends of Rustam and Isfandiyár; works on sorcery, magic,
conjuring, amulets, talismans, and the like. European savants have long
recognised the importance of the ninth discourse,[683] which is devoted
to the doctrines and writings of the Ṣábians and the Dualistic sects
founded by Manes, Bardesanes, Marcion, Mazdak, and other heresiarchs.
The author concludes his work with a chapter on the Alchemists



[Sidenote: The ‘Abbásids and Islam.]

[Sidenote: Influence of theologians.]

We have already given some account of the great political revolution
which took place under the ‘Abbásid dynasty, and we have now to consider
the no less vital influence of the new era in the field of religion. It
will be remembered that the House of ‘Abbás came forward as champions of
Islam and of the oppressed and persecuted Faithful. Their victory was a
triumph for the Muḥammadan over the National idea. "They wished, as
they said, to revive the dead Tradition of the Prophet. They brought the
experts in Sacred Law from Medína, which had hitherto been their home,
to Baghdád, and always invited their approbation by taking care that
even political questions should be treated in legal form and decided in
accordance with the Koran and the Sunna. In reality, however, they used
Islam only to serve their own interest. They tamed the divines at their
court and induced them to sanction the most objectionable measures. They
made the pious Opposition harmless by leading it to victory. With the
downfall of the Umayyads it had gained its end and could now rest in
peace."[684] There is much truth in this view of the matter, but
notwithstanding the easy character of their religion, the ‘Abbásid
Caliphs were sincerely devoted to the cause of Islam and zealous to
maintain its principles in public life. They regarded themselves as the
sovereign defenders of the Faith; added the Prophet's mantle
(_al-burda_) to those emblems of Umayyad royalty, the sceptre and the
seal; delighted in the pompous titles which their flatterers conferred
on them, _e.g._, 'Vicegerent of God,' 'Sultan of God upon the Earth,'
'Shadow of God,' &c.; and left no stone unturned to invest themselves
with the attributes of theocracy, and to inspire their subjects with
veneration.[685] Whereas the Umayyad monarchs ignored or crushed
Muḥammadan sentiment, and seldom made any attempt to conciliate the
leading representatives of Islam, the ‘Abbásids, on the other hand, not
only gathered round their throne all the most celebrated theologians of
the day, but also showed them every possible honour, listened
respectfully to their counsel, and allowed them to exert a commanding
influence on the administration of the State.[686] When Málik b. Anas
was summoned by the Caliph Hárún al-Rashíd, who wished to hear him
recite traditions, Málik replied, "People come to seek knowledge." So
Hárún went to Málik's house, and leaned against the wall beside him.
Málik said, "O Prince of the Faithful, whoever honours God, honours
knowledge." Al-Rashíd arose and seated himself at Malik's feet and spoke
to him and heard him relate a number of traditions handed down from the
Apostle of God. Then he sent for Sufyán b. ‘Uyayna, and Sufyán came to
him and sat in his presence and recited traditions to him. Afterwards
al-Rashíd said, "O Málik, we humbled ourselves before thy knowledge, and
profited thereby, but Sufyán's knowledge humbled itself to us, and we
got no good from it."[687] Many instances might be given of the high
favour which theologians enjoyed at this time, and of the lively
interest with which religious topics were debated by the Caliph and his
courtiers. As the Caliphs gradually lost their temporal sovereignty, the
influence of the _‘Ulamá_--the doctors of Divinity and Law--continued to
increase, so that ere long they formed a privileged class, occupying in
Islam a position not unlike that of the priesthood in mediæval

It will be convenient to discuss the religious phenomena of the ‘Abbásid
period under the following heads:--

I. Rationalism and Free-thought.

II. The Orthodox Reaction and the rise of Scholastic Theology.

III. The Ṣúfí Mysticism.

[Sidenote: Rationalism and Free-thought.]

I. The first century of ‘Abbásid rule was marked, as we have seen, by a
great intellectual agitation. All sorts of new ideas were in the air. It
was an age of discovery and awakening. In a marvellously brief space the
diverse studies of Theology, Law, Medicine, Philosophy, Mathematics,
Astronomy, and Natural Science attained their maturity, if not their
highest development. Even if some pious Moslems looked askance at the
foreign learning and its professors, an enlightened spirit generally
prevailed. People took their cue from the court, which patronised, or at
least tolerated,[688] scientific research as well as theological

[Sidenote: The Mu‘tazilites and their opponents.]

These circumstances enabled the Mu‘tazilites (see p. 222 sqq.) to
propagate their liberal views without hindrance, and finally to carry
their struggle against the orthodox party to a successful issue. It was
the same conflict that divided Nominalists and Realists in the days of
Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Occam. As often happens when momentous
principles are at stake, the whole controversy between Reason and
Revelation turned on a single question--"Is the Koran created or
uncreated?" In other terms, is it the work of God or the Word of God?
According to orthodox belief, it is uncreated and has existed with God
from all eternity, being in its present form merely a transcript of the
heavenly archetype.[689] Obviously this conception of the Koran as the
direct and literal Word of God left no room for exercise of the
understanding, but required of those who adopted it a dumb faith and a
blind fatalism. There were many to whom the sacrifice did not seem too
great. The Mu‘tazilites, on the contrary, asserted their intellectual
freedom. It was possible, they said, to know God and distinguish good
from evil without any Revelation at all. They admitted that the Koran
was God's work, in the sense that it was produced by a divinely inspired
Prophet, but they flatly rejected its deification. Some went so far as
to criticise the 'inimitable' style, declaring that it could be
surpassed in beauty and eloquence by the art of man.[690]

[Sidenote: Rationalism adopted and put in force by the Caliph Ma’mún.]

[Sidenote: Mutawakkil returns to orthodoxy.]

The Mu‘tazilite controversy became a burning question in the reign of
Ma’mún (813-833 A.D.), a Caliph whose scientific enthusiasm and keen
interest in religious matters we have already mentioned. He did not
inherit the orthodoxy of his father, Hárún al-Rashíd; and it was
believed that he was at heart a _zindíq_. His liberal tendencies would
have been wholly admirable if they had not been marred by excessive
intolerance towards those who held opposite views to his own. In 833
A.D., the year of his death, he promulgated a decree which bound all
Moslems to accept the Mu‘tazilite doctrine as to the creation of the
Koran on pain of losing their civil rights, and at the same time he
established an inquisition (_miḥna_) in order to obtain the assent of
the divines, judges, and doctors of law. Those who would not take the
test were flogged and threatened with the sword. After Ma’mún's death
the persecution still went on, although it was conducted in a more
moderate fashion. Popular feeling ran strongly against the Mu‘tazilites.
The most prominent figure in the orthodox camp was the Imám Aḥmad b.
Ḥanbal, who firmly resisted the new dogma from the first. "But for
him," says the Sunnite historian, Abu ’l-Maḥásin, "the beliefs of a
great number would have been corrupted."[691] Neither threats nor
entreaties could shake his resolution, and when he was scourged by
command of the Caliph Mu‘taṣim, the palace was in danger of being
wrecked by an angry mob which had assembled outside to hear the result
of the trial. The Mu‘tazilite dogma remained officially in force until
it was abandoned by the Caliph Wáthiq and once more declared heretical
by the cruel and bigoted Mutawakkil (847 A.D.). From that time to this
the victorious party have sternly suppressed every rationalistic
movement in Islam.

[Sidenote: The end of the Mu‘tazilites.]

According to Steiner, the original Mu‘tazilite heresy arose in the bosom
of Islam, independently of any foreign influence, but, however that may
be, its later development was largely affected by Greek philosophy. We
need not attempt to follow the recondite speculations of Abú Hudhayl
al-‘Alláf († about 840 A.D.) of his contemporaries, al-Naẓẓám,
Bishr b. al-Mu‘tamir, and others, and of the philosophical schools of
Baṣra and Baghdád in which the movement died away. Vainly they sought
to replace the Muḥammadan idea of God as will by the Aristotelian
conception of God as law. Their efforts to purge the Koran of
anthropomorphism made no impression on the faithful, who ardently hoped
to see God in Paradise face to face. What they actually achieved was
little enough. Their weapons of logic and dialectic were turned against
them with triumphant success, and scholastic theology was founded on the
ruins of Rationalism. Indirectly, however, the Mu‘tazilite principles
leavened Muḥammadan thought to a considerable extent and cleared the
way for other liberal movements, like the Fraternity of the _Ikhwánu
’l-Ṣafá_, which endeavoured to harmonise authority with reason, and
to construct a universal system of religious philosophy.

[Sidenote: The Ikhwánu ’l-Ṣafá.]

These 'Brethren of Purity,'[692] as they called themselves, compiled a
great encyclopædic work in fifty tractates (_Rasá’il_). Of the authors,
who flourished at Baṣra towards the end of the tenth century, five
are known to us by name: viz., Abú Sulaymán Muḥammad b. Ma‘shar
al-Bayusti or al-Muqaddasí (Maqdisí), Abu ’l-Ḥasan ‘Alí b. Hárún
al-Zanjání, Abú Aḥmad al-Mihrajání, al-‘Awfí, and Zayd b. Rifá‘a.
"They formed a society for the pursuit of holiness, purity, and truth,
and established amongst themselves a doctrine whereby they hoped to win
the approval of God, maintaining that the Religious Law was defiled by
ignorance and adulterated by errors, and that there was no means of
cleansing and purifying it except philosophy, which united the wisdom of
faith and the profit of research. They held that a perfect result would
be reached if Greek philosophy were combined with Arabian religion.
Accordingly they composed fifty tracts on every branch of philosophy,
theoretical as well as practical, added a separate index, and entitled
them the 'Tracts of the Brethren of Purity' (_Rasá’ilu Ikhwán
al-Ṣafá_). The authors of this work concealed their names, but
circulated it among the booksellers and gave it to the public. They
filled their pages with devout phraseology, religious parables,
metaphorical expressions, and figurative turns of style."[693] Nearly
all the tracts have been translated into German by Dieterici, who has
also drawn up an epitome of the whole encyclopædia in his _Philosophie
der Araber im X Jahrhundert_. It would take us too long to describe the
system of the _Ikhwán_, but the reader will find an excellent account of
it in Stanley Lane-Poole's _Studies in a Mosque_, 2nd ed., p. 176 sqq.
The view has recently been put forward that the Brethren of Purity were
in some way connected with the Ismá‘ílí propaganda, and that their
eclectic idealism represents the highest teaching of the Fátimids,
Carmathians, and Assassins. Strong evidence in support of this theory is
supplied by a MS. of the Bibliothèque Nationale (No. 2309 in De Slane's
Catalogue), which contains, together with fragments of the _Rasá’il_, a
hitherto unknown tract entitled the _Jámi‘a_ or 'Summary.'[694] The
latter purports to be the essence and crown of the fifty _Rasá’il_, it
is manifestly Ismá‘ílite in character, and, assuming that it is genuine,
we may, I think, agree with the conclusions which its discoverer, M. P.
Casanova, has stated in the following passage:--

  [Sidenote: The doctrines of the Brethren of Purity identical with
  the esoteric philosophy of the Ismá‘ílís.]

  "Surtout je crois être dans le vrai en affirmant que les doctrines
  philosophiques des Ismaïliens sont contenues tout entières dans les
  Epîtres des Frères de la Pureté. Et c'est ce qui explique 'la
  séduction extraordinaire que la doctrine exerçait sur des hommes
  sérieux.'[695] En y ajoutant la croyance en l'_imám caché_ (_al-imám
  al-mastúr_) qui doit apparaître un jour pour établir le bonheur
  universel, elle réalisait la fusion de toutes les doctrines
  idéalistes, du messianisme et du platonisme. Tant que l'imám restait
  caché, il s'y mêlait encore une saveur de mystère qui attachait les
  esprits les plus élevés.... En tous cas, on peut affirmer que les
  Carmathes et les Assassins ont été profondément calomniés quand ils
  ont été accusés par leurs adversaires d'athéisme et de débauche. Le
  fetwa d'Ibn Taimiyyah, que j'ai cité plus haut, prétend que leur
  dernier degré dans l'initiation (_al-balágh al-akbar_) est la
  négation même du Créateur. Mais la _djâmi‘at_ que nous avons
  découverte est, comme tout l'indique, le dernier degré de la science
  des Frères de la Pureté et des Ismaïliens; il n'y a rien de fondé
  dans une telle accusation. La doctrine apparait très pure, très
  élevée, très simple même: je repète que c'est une sorte de
  panthéisme mécaniste et esthétique qui est absolument opposé au
  scepticisme et au matérialisme, car il repose sur l'harmonie
  générale de toutes les parties du monde, harmonie voulue par le
  Créateur parce qu'elle est la beauté même.

  "Ma conclusion sera que nous avons là un exemple de plus dans
  l'histoire d'une doctrine très pure et très élevée en théorie,
  devenue, entre les mains des fanatiques et des ambitieux, une source
  d'actes monstrueux et méritant l'infamie qui est attachée a ce nom
  historique d'Assassins."

Besides the Mu‘tazilites, we hear much of another class of heretics who
are commonly grouped together under the name of _Zindíqs_.

[Sidenote: The _Zindíqs_.]

"It is well known," says Goldziher,[696] "that the earliest persecution
was directed against those individuals who managed more or less adroitly
to conceal under the veil of Islam old Persian religious ideas.
Sometimes indeed they did not consider any disguise to be necessary, but
openly set up dualism and other Persian or Manichæan doctrines, and the
practices associated therewith, against the dogma and usage of Islam.
Such persons were called _Zindíqs_, a term which comprises different
shades of heresy and hardly admits of simple definition. Firstly, there
are the old Persian families incorporated in Islam who, following the
same path as the Shu‘úbites, have a _national interest_ in the revival
of Persian religious ideas and traditions, and from this point of view
react against the _Arabian_ character of the Muḥammadan system. Then,
on the other hand, there are freethinkers, who oppose in particular the
stubborn dogma of Islam, reject _positive religion_, and acknowledge
only the moral law. Amongst the latter there is developed a monkish
asceticism extraneous to Islam and ultimately traceable to Buddhistic

[Sidenote: Persecution of _Zindíqs_.]

The ‘Abbásid Government, which sought to enforce an official standard of
belief, was far less favourable to religious liberty than the Umayyads
had been. Orthodox and heretic alike fell under its ban. While Ma’mún
harried pious Sunnites, his immediate predecessors raised a hue and cry
against _Zindíqs_. The Caliph Mahdí distinguished himself by an
organised persecution of these enemies of the faith. He appointed a
Grand Inquisitor (_Ṣáḥibu ’l-Zanádiqa_[697] or _‘Arífu
’l-Zanádiqa_) to discover and hunt them down. If they would not recant
when called upon, they were put to death and crucified, and their
books[698] were cut to pieces with knives.[699] Mahdí's example was
followed by Hádí and Hárún al-Rashíd. Some of the ‘Abbásids, however,
were less severe. Thus Khaṣíb, Manṣúr's physician, was a _Zindíq_
who professed Christianity,[700] and in the reign of Ma’mún it became
the mode to affect Manichæan opinions as a mark of elegance and

[Sidenote: Bashshár b. Burd.]

The two main types of _zandaqa_ which have been described above are
illustrated in the contemporary poets, Bashshár b. Burd and Ṣáliḥ
b. ‘Abd al-Quddús. Bashshár was born stone-blind. The descendant of a
noble Persian family--though his father, Burd, was a slave--he cherished
strong national sentiments and did not attempt to conceal his sympathy
with the Persian clients (_Mawálí_), whom he was accused of stirring up
against their Arab lords. He may also have had leanings towards
Zoroastrianism, but Professor Bevan has observed that there is no real
evidence for this statement,[702] though Zoroastrian or Manichæan views
are probably indicated by the fact that he used to dispute with a number
of noted Moslem theologians in Baṣra, _e.g._, with Wáṣil b.
‘Aṭá, who started the Mu‘tazilite heresy, and ‘Amr b. ‘Ubayd. He and
Ṣáliḥ b. ‘Abd al-Quddús were put to death by the Caliph Mahdí in
the same year (783 A.D.).

[Sidenote: Ṣáliḥ b. ‘Abd al-Quddús.]

This Ṣáliḥ belonged by birth or affiliation to the Arab tribe of
Azd. Of his life we know little beyond the circumstance that he was for
some time a street-preacher at Baṣra, and afterwards at Damascus. It
is possible that his public doctrine was thought dangerous, although the
preachers as a class were hand in glove with the Church and did not,
like the Lollards, denounce religious abuses.[703] His extant poetry
contains nothing heretical, but is wholly moral and didactic in
character. We have seen, however, in the case of Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya, that
Muḥammadan orthodoxy was apt to connect 'the philosophic mind' with
positive unbelief; and Ṣáliḥ appears to have fallen a victim to
this prejudice. He was accused of being a dualist (_thanawí_), _i.e._, a
Manichæan. Mahdí, it is said, conducted his examination in person, and
at first let him go free, but the poet's fate was sealed by his
confession that he was the author of the following verses:--

 "The greybeard will not leave what in the bone is bred
  Until the dark tomb covers him with earth o'erspread;
  For, tho' deterred awhile, he soon returns again
  To his old folly, as the sick man to his pain."[704]

[Sidenote: Abu ’l-‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí on the _Zindíqs_.]

Abu ’l-‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí, himself a bold and derisive critic of
Muḥammadan dogmas, devotes an interesting section of his _Risálatu
’l-Ghufrán_ to the _Zindíqs_, and says many hard things about them,
which were no doubt intended to throw dust in the eyes of a suspicious
audience. The wide scope of the term is shown by the fact that he
includes under it the pagan chiefs of Quraysh; the Umayyad Caliph Walíd
b. Yazíd; the poets Di‘bil, Abú Nuwás, Bashshár, and Ṣáliḥ b. ‘Abd
al-Quddús; Abú Muslim, who set up the ‘Abbásid dynasty; the Persian
rebels, Bábak and Mázyár; Afshín, who after conquering Bábak was starved
to death by the Caliph Mu‘taṣim; the Carmathian leader al-Jannábí;
Ibnu ’l-Ráwandí, whose work entitled the _Dámigh_ was designed to
discredit the 'miraculous' style of the Koran; and Ḥusayn b.
Manṣúr al-Ḥalláj, the Ṣúfí martyr. Most of these, one may
admit, fall within Abu ’l-‘Alá’s definition of the _Zindíqs_: "they
acknowledge neither prophet nor sacred book." The name _Zindíq_, which
is applied by Jáḥiẓ († 868 A.D.) to certain wandering monks,[705]
seems in the first instance to have been used of Manes (_Mání_) and his
followers, and is no doubt derived, as Professor Bevan has suggested,
from the _zaddíqs_, who formed an elect class in the Manichæan

[Sidenote: The Orthodox Reaction.]

[Sidenote: Abu ’l-Ḥasan al-ash‘arí.]

II. The official recognition of Rationalism as the State religion came
to an end on the accession of Mutawakkil in 847 A.D. The new Caliph, who
owed his throne to the Turkish Prætorians, could not have devised a
surer means of making himself popular than by standing forward as the
avowed champion of the faith of the masses. He persecuted impartially
Jews, Christians, Mu‘tazilites, Shí‘ites, and Ṣúfís--every one, in
short, who diverged from the narrowest Sunnite orthodoxy. The Vizier Ibn
Abí Du’ád, who had shown especial zeal in his conduct of the Mu‘tazilite
Inquisition, was disgraced, and the bulk of his wealth was confiscated.
In Baghdád the followers of Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal went from house to
house terrorising the citizens,[707] and such was their fanatical temper
that when Ṭabarí, the famous divine and historian, died in 923 A.D.,
they would not allow his body to receive the ordinary rites of
burial.[708] Finally, in the year 935 A.D., the Caliph Ráḍí issued an
edict denouncing them in these terms: "Ye assert that your ugly,
ill-favoured faces are in the likeness of the Lord of Creation, and that
your vile exterior resembles His, and ye speak of the hand, the fingers,
the feet, the golden shoes, and the curly hair (of God), and of His
going up to Heaven and of His coming down to Earth.... The Commander of
the Faithful swears a binding oath that unless ye refrain from your
detestable practices and perverse tenets he will lay the sword to your
necks and the fire to your dwellings."[709] Evidently the time was ripe
for a system which should reconcile the claims of tradition and reason,
avoiding the gross anthropomorphism of the extreme Ḥanbalites on the
one side and the pure rationalism of the advanced Mu‘tazilites (who were
still a power to be reckoned with) on the other. It is a frequent
experience that great intellectual or religious movements rising slowly
and invisibly, in response, as it were, to some incommunicable want,
suddenly find a distinct interpreter with whose name they are henceforth
associated for ever. The man, in this case, was Abu ’l-Ḥasan
al-Ash‘arí. He belonged to a noble and traditionally orthodox family of
Yemenite origin. One of his ancestors was Abú Músá al-Ash‘arí, who, as
the reader will recollect, played a somewhat inglorious part in the
arbitration between ‘Alí and Mu‘áwiya after the battle of
Ṣiffín.[710] Born in 873-874 A.D. at Baṣra, a city renowned for
its scientific and intellectual fertility, the young Abu ’l-Ḥasan
deserted the faith of his fathers, attached himself to the freethinking
school, and until his fortieth year was the favourite pupil and intimate
friend of al-Jubbá’í († 915 A.D.), the head of the Mu‘tazilite party at
that time. He is said to have broken with his teacher in consequence of
a dispute as to whether God always does what is best (_aṣlaḥ_) for
His creatures. The story is related as follows by Ibn Khallikán (De
Slane's translation, vol. ii, p. 669 seq.):--

  [Sidenote: Story of the three brothers.]

  Ash‘arí proposed to Jubbá’í the case of three brothers, one of whom
  was a true believer, virtuous and pious; the second an infidel, a
  debauchee and a reprobate; and the third an infant: they all died,
  and Ash‘arí wished to know what had become of them. To this Jubbá’í
  answered: "The virtuous brother holds a high station in Paradise;
  the infidel is in the depths of Hell, and the child is among those
  who have obtained salvation."[711] "Suppose now," said Ash‘arí,
  "that the child should wish to ascend to the place occupied by his
  virtuous brother, would he be allowed to do so?" "No," replied
  Jubbá’í, "it would be said to him: 'Thy brother arrived at this
  place through his numerous works of obedience towards God, and thou
  hast no such works to set forward.'" "Suppose then," said Ash‘arí,
  "that the child say: 'That is not my fault; you did not let me live
  long enough, neither did you give me the means of proving my
  obedience.'" "In that case," answered Jubbá’í, "the Almighty would
  say: 'I knew that if I had allowed thee to live, thou wouldst have
  been disobedient and incurred the severe punishment (of Hell); I
  therefore acted for thy advantage.'" "Well," said Ash‘arí, "and
  suppose the infidel brother were to say: 'O God of the universe!
  since you knew what awaited him, you must have known what awaited
  me; why then did you act for his advantage and not for mine?"
  Jubbá’í had not a word to offer in reply.

[Sidenote: Ash‘arí's conversion to orthodoxy.]

Soon afterwards Ash‘arí made a public recantation. One Friday, while
sitting (as his biographer relates) in the chair from which he taught in
the great mosque of Baṣra, he cried out at the top of his voice:
"They who know me know who I am: as for those who do not know me I will
tell them. I am ‘Alí b. Ismá‘íl al-Ash‘arí, and I used to hold that the
Koran was created, that the eyes of men shall not see God, and that we
ourselves are the authors of our evil deeds. Now I have returned to the
truth; I renounce these opinions, and I undertake to refute the
Mu‘tazilites and expose their infamy and turpitude."[712]

[Sidenote: Ash‘arí as the founder of Scholastic Theology.]

These anecdotes possess little or no historical value, but illustrate
the fact that Ash‘arí, having learned all that the Mu‘tazilites could
teach him and having thoroughly mastered their dialectic, turned against
them with deadly force the weapons which they had put in his hands. His
doctrine on the subject of free-will may serve to exemplify the method
of _Kalám_ (Disputation) by which he propped up the orthodox creed.[713]
Here, as in other instances, Ash‘arí took the central path--_medio
tutissimus_--between two extremes. It was the view of the early Moslem
Church--a view justified by the Koran and the Apostolic Traditions--that
everything was determined in advance and inscribed, from all eternity,
on the Guarded Tablet (_al-Lawḥ al-Maḥfúẓ_), so that men had no
choice but to commit the actions decreed by destiny. The Mu‘tazilites,
on the contrary, denied that God could be the author of evil and
insisted that men's actions were free. Ash‘arí, on his part, declared
that all actions are created and predestined by God, but that men have a
certain subordinate power which enables them to acquire the actions
previously created, although it produces no effect on the actions
themselves. Human agency, therefore, was confined to this process of
acquisition (_kasb_). With regard to the anthropomorphic passages in the
Koran, Ash‘arí laid down the rule that such expressions as "_The
Merciful has settled himself upon His throne_," "_Both His hands are
spread out_," &c., must be taken in their obvious sense without asking
'How?' (_bilá kayfa_). Spitta saw in the system of Ash‘arí a successful
revolt of the Arabian national spirit against the foreign ideas which
were threatening to overwhelm Islam,[714] a theory which does not agree
with the fact that most of the leading Ash‘arites were Persians.[715]
Von Kremer came nearer the mark when he said "Ash‘arí's victory was
simply a clerical triumph,"[716] but it was also, as Schreiner has
observed, "a victory of reflection over unthinking faith."

The victory, however, was not soon or easily won.[717] Many of the
orthodox disliked the new Scholasticism hardly less than the old
Rationalism. Thus it is not surprising to read in the _Kámil_ of Ibnu
’l-Athír under the year 456 A.H. = 1063-4 A.D., that Alp Arslán's
Vizier, ‘Amídu ’l-Mulk al-Kundurí, having obtained his master's
permission to have curses pronounced against the Ráfiḍites (Shí‘ites)
from the pulpits of Khurásán, included the Ash‘arites in the same
malediction, and that the famous Ash‘arite doctors, Abu ’l-Qásim
al-Qushayrí and the Imámu ’l-Ḥaramayn Abu ’l-Ma‘álí al-Juwayní, left
the country in consequence. The great Niẓámu ’l-Mulk exerted himself
on behalf of the Ash‘arites, and the Niẓámiyya College, which he
founded in Baghdád in the year 1067 A.D., was designed to propagate
their system of theology. But the man who stamped it with the impression
of his own powerful genius, fixed its ultimate form, and established it
as the universal creed of orthodox Islam, was Abú Ḥámid al-Ghazálí
(1058-1111 A.D.). We have already sketched the outward course of his
life, and need only recall that he lectured at Baghdád in the
Niẓámiyya College for four years (1091-1095 A.D.).[718] At the end of
that time he retired from the world as a Ṣúfí, and so brought to a
calm and fortunate close the long spiritual travail which he has himself
described in the _Munqidh mina ’l-Ḑalál_, or 'Deliverer from
Error.'[719] We must now attempt to give the reader some notion of this
work, both on account of its singular psychological interest and because
Ghazálí's search for religious truth exercised, as will shortly appear,
a profound and momentous influence upon the future history of
Muḥammadan thought. It begins with these words:--

  [Sidenote: Ghazálí's autobiography.]

  "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Praise be to
  God by the praise of whom every written or spoken discourse is
  opened! And blessings on Muḥammad, the Elect, the Prophet and
  Apostle, as well as on his family and his companions who lead us
  forth from error! To proceed: You have asked me, O my brother in
  religion, to explain to you the hidden meanings and the ultimate
  goal of the sciences, and the secret bane of the different
  doctrines, and their inmost depths. You wish me to relate all that I
  have endured in seeking to recover the truth from amidst the
  confusion of sects with diverse ways and paths, and how I have dared
  to raise myself from the abyss of blind belief in authority to the
  height of discernment. You desire to know what benefits I have
  derived in the first place from Scholastic Theology, and what I have
  appropriated, in the second place, from the methods of the
  Ta‘límites[720] who think that truth can be attained only by
  submission to the authority of an Imám; and thirdly, my reasons for
  spurning the systems of philosophy; and, lastly, why I have accepted
  the tenets of Ṣúfiism: you are anxious, in short, that I should
  impart to you the essential truths which I have learned in my
  repeated examination of the (religious) opinions of mankind."

In a very interesting passage, which has been translated by Professor
Browne, Ghazálí tells how from his youth upward he was possessed with an
intense thirst for knowledge, which impelled him to study every form of
religion and philosophy, and to question all whom he met concerning the
nature and meaning of their belief.[721] But when he tried to
distinguish the true from the false, he found no sure test. He could not
trust the evidence of his senses. The eye sees a shadow and declares it
to be without movement; or a star, and deems it no larger than a piece
of gold. If the senses thus deceive, may not the mind do likewise?
Perhaps our life is a dream full of phantom thoughts which we mistake
for realities--until the awakening comes, either in moments of ecstasy
or at death. "For two months," says Ghazálí, "I was actually, though not
avowedly, a sceptic." Then God gave him light, so that he regained his
mental balance and was able to think soundly. He resolved that this
faculty must guide him to the truth, since blind faith once lost never
returns. Accordingly, he set himself to examine the foundations of
belief in four classes of men who were devoted to the search for truth,
namely, Scholastic Theologians, Ismá‘ílís (_Bátiniyya_), Philosophers,
and Ṣúfís. For a long while he had to be content with wholly negative
results. Scholasticism was, he admitted, an excellent purge against
heresy, but it could not cure the disease from which he was suffering.
As for the philosophers, all of them--Materialists (_Dahriyyún_),
Naturalists (_Ṭabí‘iyyún_), and Theists (_Iláhiyyún_)--"are branded
with infidelity and impiety." Here, as often in his discussion of the
philosophical schools, Ghazálí's religious instinct breaks out. We
cannot imagine him worshipping at the shrine of pure reason any more
than we can imagine Herbert Spencer at Lourdes. He next turned to the
Ta‘límites (Doctrinists) or Báṭinites (Esoterics), who claimed that
they knew the truth, and that its unique source was the infallible Imám.
But when he came to close quarters with these sectaries, he discovered
that they could teach him nothing, and their mysterious Imám vanished
into space. Ṣúfiism, therefore, was his last hope. He carefully
studied the writings of the mystics, and as he read it became clear to
him that now he was on the right path. He saw that the higher stages of
Ṣúfiism could not be learned by study, but must be realised by actual
experience, that is, by rapture, ecstasy, and moral transformation.
After a painful struggle with himself he resolved to cast aside all his
worldly ambition and to live for God alone. In the month of Dhu
’l-Qa‘da, 488 A.H. (November, 1095 A.D.), he left Baghdád and wandered
forth to Syria, where he found in the Ṣúfí discipline of prayer,
praise, and meditation the peace which his soul desired.

Mr. Duncan B. Macdonald, to whom we owe the best and fullest life of
Ghazálí that has yet been written, sums up his work and influence in
Islam under four heads[722]:--

_First_, he led men back from scholastic labours upon theological dogmas
to living contact with, study and exegesis of, the Word and the

_Second_, in his preaching and moral exhortations he re-introduced the
element of fear.

_Third_, it was by his influence that Ṣúfiism attained a firm and
assured position within the Church of Islam.

_Fourth_, he brought philosophy and philosophical theology within the
range of the ordinary mind.

  [Sidenote: Ghazálí's work and influence.]

  "Of these four phases of al-Ghazzālī's work," says Macdonald,
  "the first and third are undoubtedly the most important. He made his
  mark by leading Islam back to its fundamental and historical facts,
  and by giving a place in its system to the emotional religious life.
  But it will have been noticed that in none of the four phases was he
  a pioneer. He was not a scholar who struck out a new path, but a man
  of intense personality who entered on a path already trodden and
  made it the common highway. We have here his character. Other men
  may have been keener logicians, more learned theologians, more
  gifted saints; but he, through his personal experiences, had
  attained so overpowering a sense of the divine realities that the
  force of his character--once combative and restless, now narrowed
  and intense--swept all before it, and the Church of Islam entered on
  a new era of its existence."

[Sidenote: Ṣúfiism in the ‘Abbásid period.]

III. We have traced the history of Mysticism in Islam from the ascetic
movement of the first century, in which it originated, to a point where
it begins to pass beyond the sphere of Muḥammadan influence and to enter
on a strange track, of which the Prophet assuredly never dreamed,
although the Ṣúfís constantly pretend that they alone are his true
followers. I do not think it can be maintained that Ṣúfiism of the
theosophical and speculative type, which we have now to consider, is
merely a development of the older asceticism and quietism which have
been described in a former chapter. The difference between them is
essential and must be attributed in part, as Von Kremer saw,[723] to the
intrusion of some extraneous, non-Islamic, element. As to the nature of
this new element there are several conflicting theories, which have been
so clearly and fully stated by Professor Browne in his _Literary History
of Persia_ (vol. i, p. 418 sqq.) that I need not dwell upon them here.
Briefly it is claimed--

(_a_) That Ṣúfiism owes its inspiration to Indian philosophy, and
especially to the Vedanta.

(_b_) That the most characteristic ideas in Ṣúfiism are of Persian

(_c_) That these ideas are derived from Neo-platonism.

Instead of arguing for or against any of the above theories, all of
which, in my opinion, contain a measure of truth, I propose in the
following pages to sketch the historical evolution of the Ṣúfí
doctrine as far as the materials at my disposal will permit. This, it
seems to me, is the only possible method by which we may hope to arrive
at a definite conclusion as to its origin. Since mysticism in all ages
and countries is fundamentally the same, however it may be modified by
its peculiar environment, and by the positive religion to which it
clings for support, we find remote and unrelated systems showing an
extraordinarily close likeness and even coinciding in many features of
verbal expression. Such resemblances can prove little or nothing unless
they are corroborated by evidence based on historical grounds. Many
writers on Ṣúfiism have disregarded this principle; hence the
confusion which long prevailed. The first step in the right direction
was made by Adalbert Merx,[724] who derived valuable results from a
chronological examination of the sayings of the early Ṣúfís. He did
not, however, carry his researches beyond Abú Sulaymán al-Dárání († 830
A.D.), and confined his attention almost entirely to the doctrine,
which, according to my view, should be studied in connection with the
lives, character, and nationality of the men who taught it.[725] No
doubt the origin and growth of mysticism in Islam, as in all other
religions, _ultimately_ depended on general causes and conditions, not
on external circumstances. For example, the political anarchy of the
Umayyad period, the sceptical tendencies of the early ‘Abbásid age, and
particularly the dry formalism of Moslem theology could not fail to
provoke counter-movements towards quietism, spiritual authority, and
emotional faith. But although Ṣúfiism was not called into being by
any impulse from without (this is too obvious to require argument), the
influences of which I am about to speak have largely contributed to make
it what it is, and have coloured it so deeply that no student of the
history of Ṣúfiism can afford to neglect them.

[Sidenote: Ma‘rúf al-Karkhí († 815 A.D.).]

Towards the end of the eighth century of our era the influence of new
ideas is discernible in the sayings of Ma‘rúf al-Karkhí († 815 A.D.), a
contemporary of Fuḍayl b. ‘Iyáḍ and Shaqíq of Balkh. He was born
in the neighbourhood of Wásiṭ, one of the great cities of
Mesopotamia, and the name of his father, Fírúz, or Fírúzán, shows that
he had Persian blood in his veins. Ma‘rút was a client (_mawlá_) of the
Shí‘ite Imám, ‘Alí b. Músá al-Riḍá, in whose presence he made
profession of Islam; for he had been brought up as a Christian (such is
the usual account), or, possibly, as a Ṣábian. He lived during the
reign of Hárún al-Rashíd in the Karkh quarter of Baghdád, where he
gained a high reputation for saintliness, so that his tomb in that city
is still an object of veneration. He is described as a God-intoxicated
man, but in this respect he is not to be compared with many who came
after him. Nevertheless, he deserves to stand at the head of the
mystical as opposed to the ascetic school of Ṣúfís. He defined
Ṣúfiism as "the apprehension of Divine realities and renunciation of
human possessions."[726] Here are a few of his sayings:--

 "Love is not to be learned from men; it is one of God's gifts and
  comes of His grace.

 "The Saints of God are known by three signs: their thought is of
  God, their dwelling is with God, and their business is in God.

 "If the gnostic (_‘árif_) has no bliss, yet he himself is in every

 "When you desire anything of God, swear to Him by me."

From these last words, which Ma‘rúf addressed to his pupil Sarí
al-Saqaṭí, it is manifest that he regarded himself as being in the
most intimate communion with God.

[Sidenote: Abú Sulaymán al-Dárání († 830 A.D.).]

Abú Sulaymán († 830 A.D.), the next great name in the Ṣúfí
biographies, was also a native of Wásiṭ, but afterwards emigrated to
Syria and settled at Dárayá (near Damascus), whence he is called
'al-Dárání.' He developed the doctrine of gnosis (_ma‘rifat_). Those who
are familiar with the language of European mystics--_illuminatio_,
_oculus cordis_, &c.--will easily interpret such sayings as these:--

  "None refrains from the lusts of this world save him in whose heart
  there is a light that keeps him always busied with the next world.

  "When the gnostic's spiritual eye is opened, his bodily eye is shut:
  they see nothing but Him.

  "If Gnosis were to take visible form, all that looked thereon would
  die at the sight of its beauty and loveliness and goodness and
  grace, and every brightness would become dark beside the splendour

  "Gnosis is nearer to silence than to speech."

[Sidenote: Dhu ’l-Nún al-Misrí († 860 A.D.).]

We now come to Dhu ’l-Nún al-Misrí († 860 A.D.), whom the Ṣúfís
themselves consider to be the primary author of their doctrine.[728]
That he at all events was among the first of those who helped to give it
permanent shape is a fact which is amply attested by the collection of
his sayings preserved in ‘Aṭṭár's _Memoirs of the Saints_ and in
other works of the same kind.[729] It is clear that the theory of
gnosis, with which he deals at great length, was the central point in
his system; and he seems to have introduced the doctrine that true
knowledge of God is attained only by means of ecstasy (_wajd_). "The man
that knows God best," he said, "is the one most lost in Him." Like
Dionysius, he refused to make any positive statements about the Deity.
"Whatever you imagine, God is the contrary of that." Divine love he
regarded as an ineffable mystery which must not be revealed to the
profane. All this is the very essence of the later Ṣúfiism. It is
therefore desirable to ascertain the real character of Dhu ’l-Nún and
the influences to which he was subjected. The following account gives a
brief summary of what I have been able to discover; fuller details will
be found in the article mentioned above.

His name was Abu ’l-Fayḍ Thawbán b. Ibráhím, Dhu ’l-Nún (He of the
Fish) being a sobriquet referring to one of his miracles, and his father
was a native of Nubia, or of Ikhmím in Upper Egypt. Ibn Khallikán
describes Dhu ’l-Nún as 'the nonpareil of his age' for learning,
devotion, communion with the Divinity (_ḥál_), and acquaintance with
literature (_adab_); adding that he was a philosopher (_ḥakím_) and
spoke Arabic with elegance. The people of Egypt, among whom he lived,
looked upon him as a _zindíq_ (freethinker), and he was brought to
Baghdád to answer this charge, but after his death he was canonised. In
the _Fihrist_ he appears among "the philosophers who discoursed on
alchemy," and Ibnu ’l-Qifṭí brackets him with the famous occultist
Jábir b. Ḥayyán. He used to wander (as we learn from Mas‘údí)[730]
amidst the ruined Egyptian monuments, studying the inscriptions and
endeavouring to decipher the mysterious figures which were thought to
hold the key to the lost sciences of antiquity. He also dabbled in
medicine, which, like Paracelsus, he combined with alchemy and magic.

Let us see what light these facts throw upon the origin of the Ṣúfí
theosophy. Did it come to Egypt from India, Persia, or Greece?

[Sidenote: The origin of theosophical Ṣúfiism.]

Considering the time, place, and circumstances in which it arose, and
having regard to the character of the man who bore a chief part in its
development, we cannot hesitate, I think, to assert that it is largely a
product of Greek speculation. Ma‘rúf al-Karkhí, Abú Sulaymán al-Dárání,
and Dhu ’l-Nún al-Miṣrí all three lived and died in the period (786-861
A.D.) which begins with the accession of Hárún al-Rashíd and is
terminated by the death of Mutawakkil. During these seventy-five years
the stream of Hellenic culture flowed unceasingly into the Moslem world.
Innumerable works of Greek philosophers, physicians, and scientists were
translated and eagerly studied. Thus the Greeks became the teachers of
the Arabs, and the wisdom of ancient Greece formed, as has been shown in
a preceding chapter, the basis of Muḥammadan science and philosophy. The
results are visible in the Mu‘tazilite rationalism as well as in the
system of the _Ikhwánu ’l-Ṣafá_. But it was not through literature alone
that the Moslems were imbued with Hellenism. In ‘Iráq, Syria, and Egypt
they found themselves on its native soil, which yielded, we may be sure,
a plentiful harvest of ideas--Neo-platonic, Gnostical, Christian,
mystical, pantheistic, and what not? In Mesopotamia, the heart of the
‘Abbásid Empire, dwelt a strange people, who were really Syrian
heathens, but who towards the beginning of the ninth century assumed the
name of Ṣábians in order to protect themselves from the persecution with
which they were threatened by the Caliph Ma’mún. At this time, indeed,
many of them accepted Islam or Christianity, but the majority clung to
their old pagan beliefs, while the educated class continued to profess a
religious philosophy which, as it is described by Shahrastání and other
Muḥammadan writers, is simply the Neo-platonism of Proclus and
Iamblichus. To return to Dhu ’l-Nún, it is incredible that a mystic and
natural philosopher living in the first half of the ninth century in
Egypt should have derived his doctrine directly from India. There may be
Indian elements in Neo-platonism and Gnosticism, but this possibility
does not affect my contention that the immediate source of the Ṣúfí
theosophy is to be sought in Greek and Syrian speculation. To define its
origin more narrowly is not, I think, practicable in the present state
of our knowledge. Merx, however, would trace it to Dionysius, the
Pseudo-Areopagite, or rather to his master, a certain "Hierotheus," whom
Frothingham has identified with the Syrian mystic, Stephen bar Sudaili
(_circa_ 500 A.D.). Dionysius was of course a Christian Neo-platonist.
His works certainly laid the foundations of mediæval mysticism in
Europe, and they were also popular in the East at the time when Ṣúfiism

[Sidenote: Ṣúfiism composed of many different elements.]

When speaking of the various current theories as to the origin of
Ṣúfiism, I said that in my opinion they all contained a measure of
truth. No single cause will account for a phenomenon so widely spread
and so diverse in its manifestations. Ṣúfiism has always been thoroughly
eclectic, absorbing and transmuting whatever 'broken lights' fell across
its path, and consequently it gained adherents amongst men of the most
opposite views--theists and pantheists, Mu‘tazilites and Scholastics,
philosophers and divines. We have seen what it owed to Greece, but the
Perso-Indian elements are not to be ignored. Although the theory "that
it must be regarded as the reaction of the Aryan mind against a Semitic
religion imposed on it by force" is inadmissible--Dhu ’l-Nún, for
example, was a Copt or Nubian--the fact remains that there was at the
time a powerful anti-Semitic reaction, which expressed itself, more or
less consciously, in Ṣúfís of Persian race. Again, the literary
influence of India upon Muḥammadan thought before 1000 A.D. was greatly
inferior to that of Greece, as any one can see by turning over the pages
of the _Fihrist_; but Indian religious ideas must have penetrated into
Khurásán and Eastern Persia at a much earlier period.

These considerations show that the question as to the origin of Ṣúfiism
cannot be answered in a definite and exclusive way. None of the rival
theories is completely true, nor is any of them without a partial
justification. The following words of Dr. Goldziher should be borne in
mind by all who are interested in this subject:--

  [Sidenote: Goldziher on the character of Ṣúfiism.]

  "Ṣúfiism cannot be looked upon as a regularly organised sect within
  Islam. Its dogmas cannot be compiled into a regular system. It
  manifests itself in different shapes in different countries. We find
  divergent tendencies, according to the spirit of the teaching of
  distinguished theosophists who were founders of different schools,
  the followers of which may be compared to Christian monastic orders.
  The influence of different environments naturally affected the
  development of Ṣúfiism. Here we find mysticism, there asceticism the
  prevailing thought."[731]

The four principal foreign sources of Ṣúfiism are undoubtedly
Christianity, Neo-platonism, Gnosticism, and Indian asceticism and
religious philosophy. I shall not attempt in this place to estimate
their comparative importance, but it should be clearly understood that
the speculative and theosophical side of Ṣúfiism, which, as we have
seen, was first elaborated in ‘Iráq, Syria, and Egypt, bears
unmistakable signs of Hellenistic influence.

[Sidenote: Báyazíd of Bisṭám.]

The early Ṣúfís are particularly interested in the theory of mystical
union (_faná wa-baqá_) and often use expressions which it is easy to
associate with pantheism, yet none of them can fairly be called a
pantheist in the true sense. The step from theosophy to pantheism was
not, I think, made either by Ḥalláj († 922 A.D.) or by the celebrated
Abú Yazíd, in Persian Báyazíd († 874-75 A.D.), of Bisṭám, a town in the
province of Qúmis situated near the south-eastern corner of the Caspian
Sea. While his father, Surúshán, was a Zoroastrian, his master in
Ṣúfiism seems to have been connected with Sind (Scinde), where Moslem
governors had been installed since 715 A.D. Báyazíd carried the
experimental doctrine of _faná_ (dying to self) to its utmost limit, and
his language is tinged with the peculiar poetic imagery which was
afterwards developed by the great Ṣúfí of Khurásán, Abú Sa‘íd b. Abi
’l-Khayr († 1049 A.D.). I can give only a few specimens of his sayings.
Their genuineness is not above suspicion, but they serve to show that if
the theosophical basis of Ṣúfiism is distinctively Greek, its mystical
extravagances are no less distinctively Oriental.

  "Creatures are subject to 'states' (_aḥwál_), but the gnostic has no
  'state,' because his vestiges are effaced and his essence is
  annihilated by the essence of another, and his traces are lost in
  another's traces.

  "I went from God to God until they cried from me in me, 'O Thou I!'

  "Nothing is better for Man than to be without aught, having no
  asceticism, no theory, no practice. When he is without all, he is
  with all.

  "Verily I am God, there is no God except me, so worship me!

  "Glory to me! how great is my majesty!

  "I came forth from Báyazíd-ness as a snake from its skin. Then I
  looked. I saw that lover, beloved, and love are one, for in the
  world of unification all can be one.

  "I am the wine-drinker and the wine and the cup-bearer."

Thus, in the course of a century, Ṣúfiism, which at first was little
more than asceticism, became in succession mystical and theosophical,
and even ran the risk of being confused with pantheism. Henceforward the
term _Taṣawwuf_ unites all these varying shades. As a rule, however,
the great Ṣúfís of the third century A.H. (815-912 A.D.) keep their
antinomian enthusiasm under control. Most of them agreed with Junayd of
Baghdád († 909 A.D.), the leading theosophist of his time, in preferring
"the path of sobriety," and in seeking to reconcile the Law (_sharí‘at_)
with the Truth (_ḥaqíqat_). "Our principles," said Sahl b. ‘Abdulláh
al-Tustarí († 896 A.D.), "are six: to hold fast by the Book of God, to
model ourselves upon the Apostle (Muḥammad), to eat only what is
lawful, to refrain from hurting people even though they hurt us, to
avoid forbidden things, and to fulfil obligations without delay." To
these articles the strictest Moslem might cheerfully subscribe.
Ṣúfiism in its ascetic, moral, and devotional aspects was a
spiritualised Islam, though it was a very different thing essentially.
While doing lip-service to the established religion, it modified the
dogmas of Islam in such a way as to deprive them of their original
significance. Thus Allah, the God of mercy and wrath, was in a certain
sense depersonalised and worshipped as the One absolutely Real
(_al-Ḥaqq_). Here the Ṣúfís betray their kinship with the
Mu‘tazilites, but the two sects have little in common except the Greek
philosophy.[732] It must never be forgotten that Ṣúfiism was the
expression of a profound religious feeling--"hatred of the world and
love of the Lord."[733] "_Taṣawwuf_," said Junayd, "is this: that God
should make thee die to thyself and should make thee live in Him."

The further development of Ṣúfiism may be indicated in a few words.

[Sidenote: The development of Ṣúfiism.]

What was at first a form of religion adopted by individuals and
communicated to a small circle of companions gradually became a monastic
system, a school for saints, with rules of discipline and devotion which
the novice (_muríd_) learned from his spiritual director (_pír_ or
_ustádh_), to whose guidance he submitted himself absolutely. Already in
the third century after Muḥammad it is increasingly evident that the
typical Ṣúfí adept of the future will no longer be a solitary ascetic
shunning the sight of men, but a great Shaykh and hierophant, who
appears on ceremonial occasions attended by a numerous train of admiring
disciples. Soon the doctrine began to be collected and embodied in
books. Some of the most notable Arabic works of reference on Ṣúfiism
have been mentioned already. Among the oldest are the _Kitábu ’l-Luma‘_,
by Abú Naṣr al-Sarráj († 988 A.D.) and the _Qútu ’l-Qulúb_ by Abú
Ṭálib al-Makkí († 996 A.D.). The twelfth century saw the rise of the
Dervish Orders. ‘Adí al-Hakkárí († 1163 A.D.) and ‘Abdu ’l-Qádir al-Jílí
(† 1166 A.D.) founded the fraternities which are called ‘Adawís and
Qádirís, after their respective heads. These were followed in rapid
succession by the Rifá‘ís, the Shádhilís, and the Mevlevís, of whom the
last named owe their origin to the Persian poet and mystic, Jalálu
’l-Dín Rúmí († 1273 A.D.). By this time, mainly through the influence of
Ghazálí, Ṣúfiism had won for itself a secure and recognised position
in the Muḥammadan Church. Orthodoxy was forced to accept the popular
Saint-worship and to admit the miracles of the _Awliyá_, although many
Moslem puritans raised their voices against the superstitious veneration
which was paid to the tombs of holy men, and against the prayers,
sacrifices, and oblations offered by the pilgrims who assembled. Ghazálí
also gave the Ṣúfí doctrine a metaphysical basis. For this purpose he
availed himself of the terminology, which Fárábí (also a Ṣúfí) and
Avicenna had already borrowed from the Neo-platonists. From his time
forward we find in Ṣúfí writings constant allusions to the Plotinian
theories of emanation and ecstasy.

[Sidenote: ‘Umar Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ.]

Mysticism was more congenial to the Persians than to the Arabs, and its
influence on Arabic literature is not to be compared with the
extraordinary spell which it has cast over the Persian mind since the
eleventh century of the Christian era to the present day. With few
exceptions, the great poets of Persia (and, we may add, of Turkey) speak
the allegorical language and use the fantastic imagery of which the
quatrains of the Persian Ṣúfí, Abú Sa‘íd b. Abi ’l-Khayr,[734] afford
almost the first literary example. The Arabs have only one mystical poet
worthy to stand beside the Persian masters. This is Sharafu ’l-Dín ‘Umar
Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ, who was born in Cairo (1181 A.D.) and died there in
1235. His _Díwán_ was edited by his grandson ‘Alí, and the following
particulars regarding the poet's life are extracted from the
biographical notice prefixed to this edition[735]:--

  "The Shaykh ‘Umar Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ was of middle stature; his face
  was fair and comely, with a mingling of visible redness; and when he
  was under the influence of music (_samá‘_) and rapture (_wajd_), and
  overcome by ecstasy, it grew in beauty and brilliancy, and sweat
  dropped from his body until it ran on the ground under his feet. I
  never saw (so his son relates) among Arabs or foreigners a figure
  equal in beauty to his, and I am the likest of all men to him in
  form.... And when he walked in the city, the people used to press
  round him asking his blessing and trying to kiss his hand, but he
  would not allow anyone to do so, but put his hand in theirs....
  ‘Umar Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ said: 'In the beginning of my detachment
  (_tajríd_) from the world I used to beg permission of my father and
  go up to the Wádi ’l-Mustaḍ‘afín on the second mountain of
  al-Muqaṭṭam. Thither I would resort and continue in this
  hermit life (_síyáḥa_) night and day; then I would return to my
  father, as bound in duty to cherish his affection. My father was at
  that time Lieutenant of the High Court (_khalífatu ’l-ḥukmi
  ’l-‘azíz_) in Qáhira and Miṣr,[736] the two guarded cities, and
  was one of the men most eminent for learning and affairs. He was
  wont to be glad when I returned, and he frequently let me sit with
  him in the chambers of the court and in the colleges of law. Then I
  would long for "detachment," and beg leave to return to the life of
  a wandering devotee, and thus I was doing repeatedly, until my
  father was asked to fill the office of Chief Justice (_Qáḍi
  ’l-Quḍát_), but refused, and laid down the post which he held,
  and retired from society, and gave himself entirely to God in the
  preaching-hall (_qá‘atu ’l-khiṭába_) of the Mosque al-Azhar.
  After his death I resumed my former detachment, and solitary
  devotion, and travel in the way of Truth, but no revelation was
  vouchsafed to me. One day I came to Cairo and entered the Sayfiyya
  College. At the gate I found an old grocer performing an ablution
  which was not prescribed. First he washed his hands, then his feet;
  then he wiped his head and washed his face. "O Shaykh," I said to
  him, "do you, after all these years, stand beside the gate of the
  college among the Moslem divines and perform an irregular ablution?"
  He looked at me and said, "O ‘Umar, nothing will be vouchsafed to
  thee in Egypt, but only in the Ḥijáz, at Mecca (may God exalt
  it!); set out thither, for the time of thy illumination hath come."
  Then I knew that the man was one of God's saints and that he was
  disguising himself by his manner of livelihood and by pretending to
  be ignorant of the irregularity of the ablution. I seated myself
  before him and said to him, "O my master, how far am I from Mecca!
  and I cannot find convoy or companions save in the months of
  Pilgrimage." He looked at me and pointed with his hand and said,
  "Here is Mecca in front of thee"; and as I looked with him, I saw
  Mecca (may God exalt it!); and bidding him farewell, I set off to
  seek it, and it was always in front of me until I entered it. At
  that moment illumination came to me and continued without any
  interruption.... I abode in a valley which was distant from Mecca
  ten days' journey for a hard rider, and every day and night I would
  come forth to pray the five prayers in the exalted Sanctuary, and
  with me was a wild beast of huge size which accompanied me in my
  going and returning, and knelt to me as a camel kneels, and said,
  "Mount, O my master," but I never did so.'"

When fifteen years had elapsed, ‘Umar Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ returned to
Cairo. The people venerated him as a saint, and the reigning monarch,
Malik al-Kámil, wished to visit him in person, but ‘Umar declined to see
him, and rejected his bounty. "At most times," says the poet's son, "the
Shaykh was in a state of bewilderment, and his eyes stared fixedly. He
neither heard nor saw any one speaking to him. Now he would stand, now
sit, now repose on his side, now lie on his back wrapped up like a dead
man; and thus would he pass ten consecutive days, more or less, neither
eating nor drinking nor speaking nor stirring." In 1231 A.D. he made the
pilgrimage to Mecca, on which occasion he met his famous contemporary,
Shihábu’ l-Dín Abú Ḥafṣ ‘Umar al-Suhrawardí. He died four years
later, and was buried in the Qaráfa cemetery at the foot of Mount

[Sidenote: The poetry of Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ.]

His _Díwán_ of mystical odes, which were first collected and published
by his grandson, is small in extent compared with similar works in the
Persian language, but of no unusual brevity when regarded as the
production of an Arabian poet.[737] Concerning its general character
something has been said above (p. 325). The commentator, Ḥasan
al-Búríní († 1615 A.D.), praises the easy flow (_insijàm_) of the
versification, and declares that Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ "is accustomed to play
with ideas in ever-changing forms, and to clothe them with splendid
garments."[738] His style, full of verbal subtleties, betrays the
influence of Mutanabbí.[739] The longest piece in the _Díwán_ is a Hymn
of Divine Love, entitled _Naẓmu ’l-Sulúk_ ('Poem on the Mystic's
Progress'), and often called _al-Tá’iyyatu ’l-Kubrá_ ('The Greater Ode
rhyming in _t_'), which has been edited with a German verse-translation
by Hammer-Purgstall (Vienna, 1854). On account of this poem the author
was accused of favouring the doctrine of _ḥulúl_, _i.e._, the
incarnation of God in human beings. Another celebrated ode is the
_Khamriyya_, or Hymn of Wine.[740]

The following versions will perhaps convey to English readers some faint
impression of the fervid rapture and almost ethereal exaltation which
give the poetry of Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ a unique place in Arabic

 "Let passion's swelling tide my senses drown!
  Pity love's fuel, this long-smouldering heart,
  Nor answer with a frown,
  When I would fain behold Thee as Thou art,
  '_Thou shall not see Me._'[741] O my soul, keep fast
  The pledge thou gav'st: endure unfaltering to the last!
  For Love is life, and death in love the Heaven
  Where all sins are forgiven.
  To those before and after and of this day,
  That witnesseth my tribulation, say,
  'By me be taught, me follow, me obey,
  And tell my passion's story thro' wide East and West.'
  With my Beloved I alone have been
  When secrets tenderer than evening airs
  Passed, and the Vision blest
  Was granted to my prayers,
  That crowned me, else obscure, with endless fame,
  The while amazed between
  His beauty and His majesty
  I stood in silent ecstasy,
  Revealing that which o'er my spirit went and came.
  Lo! in His face commingled
  Is every charm and grace;
  The whole of Beauty singled
  Into a perfect face
  Beholding Him would cry,
 'There is no God but He, and He is the most High!'"[742]

Here are the opening verses of the _Tá’iyyatu ’l-Ṣughrá_, or 'The
Lesser Ode rhyming in _t_,' which is so called in order to distinguish
it from the _Tá’iyyatu ’l-Kubrá_:--

 "Yea, in me the Zephyr kindled longing, O my loves, for you;
  Sweetly breathed the balmy Zephyr, scattering odours when it blew;
  Whispering to my heart at morning secret tales of those who dwell
  (How my fainting heart it gladdened!) nigh the water and the well;
  Murmuring in the grassy meadows, garmented with gentleness,
  Languid love-sick airs diffusing, healing me of my distress.
  When the green slopes wave before thee, Zephyr, in my loved Ḥijáz,
  Thou, not wine that mads the others, art my rapture's only cause.
  Thou the covenant eternal[743] callest back into my mind,
  For but newly thou hast parted from my dear ones, happy Wind!
  Driver of the dun-red camels that amidst acacias bide,
  Soft and sofa-like thy saddle from the long and weary ride!
  Blessings on thee, if descrying far-off Túḍih at noonday,
  Thou wilt cross the desert hollows where the fawns of Wajra play,
  And if from ‘Urayḍ's sand-hillocks bordering on stony ground
  Thou wilt turn aside to Ḥuzwá, driver for Suwayqa bound,
  And Ṭuwayli‘'s willows leaving, if to Sal‘ thou thence wilt ride--
  Ask, I pray thee, of a people dwelling on the mountain-side!
  Halt among the clan I cherish (so may health attend thee still!)
  And deliver there my greeting to the Arabs of the hill.
  For the tents are basking yonder, and in one of them is She
  That bestows the meeting sparely, but the parting lavishly.
  All around her as a rampart edge of sword and point of lance,
  Yet my glances stray towards her when on me she deigns to glance.
  Girt about with double raiment--soul and heart of mine, no less--
  She is guarded from beholders, veiled by her unveiledness.
  Death to me, in giving loose to my desire, she destineth;
  Ah, how goodly seems the bargain, and how cheap is Love
    for Death![744]

Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ came of pure Arab stock, and his poetry is thoroughly
Arabian both in form and spirit. This is not the place to speak of the
great Persian Ṣúfís, but Ḥusayn b. Manṣúr al-Ḥalláj, who was
executed in the Caliphate of Muqtadir (922 A.D.), could not have been
omitted here but for the fact that Professor Browne has already given an
admirable account of him, to which I am unable to add anything of
importance.[745] The Arabs, however, have contributed to the history of
Ṣúfiism another memorable name--Muḥyi’l-Dín Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí, whose
life falls within the final century of the ‘Abbásid period, and will
therefore fitly conclude the present chapter.[746]

[Sidenote: Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí.]

Muḥyi ’l-Dín Muḥammad b. ‘Alí Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí (or Ibn ‘Arabí)[747]
was born at Mursiya (Murcia) in Spain on the 17th of Ramaḍán, 560
A.H. = July 29, 1165 A.D. From 1173 to 1202 he resided in Seville. He
then set out for the East, travelling by way of Egypt to the Ḥijáz,
where he stayed a long time, and after visiting Baghdád, Mosul, and Asia
Minor, finally settled at Damascus, in which city he died (638 A.H. =
1240 A.D.). His tomb below Mount Qásiyún was thought to be "a piece of
the gardens of Paradise," and was called the Philosophers' Stone.[748]
It is now enclosed in a mosque which bears the name of Muḥyi ’l-Dín,
and a cupola rises over it.[749] We know little concerning the events of
his life, which seems to have been passed chiefly in travel and
conversation with Ṣúfís and in the composition of his voluminous
writings, about three hundred in number according to his own
computation. Two of these works are especially celebrated, and have
caused Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí to be regarded as the greatest of all
Muḥammadan mystics--the _Futúḥát al-Makkiyya_, or 'Meccan
Revelations,' and the _Fuṣúṣú ’l-Ḥikam_, or 'Bezels of
Philosophy.' The _Futúḥát_ is a huge treatise in five hundred and
sixty chapters, containing a complete system of mystical science. The
author relates that he saw Muḥammad in the World of Real Ideas,
seated on a throne amidst angels, prophets, and saints, and received his
command to discourse on the Divine mysteries. At another time, while
circumambulating the Ka‘ba, he met a celestial spirit wearing the form
of a youth engaged in the same holy rite, who showed him the living
esoteric Temple which is concealed under the lifeless exterior, even as
the eternal substance of the Divine Ideas is hidden by the veils of
popular religion--veils through which the lofty mind must penetrate,
until, having reached the splendour within, it partakes of the Divine
nature and beholds what no mortal eye can endure to look upon. Ibnu
’l-‘Arabí immediately fell into a swoon. When he came to himself he was
instructed to contemplate the visionary form and to write down the
mysteries which it would reveal to his gaze. Then the youth entered the
Ka‘ba with Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí, and resuming his spiritual aspect, appeared
to him on a three-legged steed, breathed into his breast the knowledge
of all things, and once more bade him describe the heavenly form in
which all mysteries are enshrined.[750] Such is the reputed origin of
the 'Meccan Revelations,' of which the greater portion was written in
the town where inspiration descended on Muḥammad six hundred years
before. The author believed, or pretended to believe, that every word of
them was dictated to him by supernatural means. The _Fúṣúṣ_, a
short work in twenty-seven chapters, each of which is named after one of
the prophets, is no less highly esteemed, and has been the subject of
numerous commentaries in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish.

[Sidenote: The doctrine of the Perfect Man.]

Curiously enough, Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí combined the most extravagant mysticism
with the straitest orthodoxy. "He was a Ẓáhirite (literalist) in
religion and a Báṭinite (spiritualist) in his speculative
beliefs."[751] He rejected all authority (_taqlíd_). "I am not one of
those who say, 'Ibn Ḥazm said so-and-so, Aḥmad[752] said
so-and-so, al-Nu‘mán[753] said so-and-so,'" he declares in one of his
poems. But although he insisted on punctilious adherence to the letter
of the sacred law, we may suspect that his refusal to follow any human
authority, analogy, or opinion was simply the overweening presumption of
the seer who regards himself as divinely illuminated and infallible.
Many theologians were scandalised by the apparently blasphemous
expressions which occur in his writings, and taxed him with holding
heretical doctrines, _e.g._, the incarnation of God in man (_ḥulúl_)
and the identification of man with God (_ittiḥád_). Centuries passed,
but controversy continued to rage over him. He found numerous and
enthusiastic partisans, who urged that the utterances of the saints must
not be interpreted literally nor criticised at all. It was recognised,
however, that such high mysteries were unsuitable for the weaker
brethren, so that many even of those who firmly believed in his sanctity
discouraged the reading of his books. They were read nevertheless,
publicly and privately, from one end of the Muḥammadan world to the
other; people copied them for the sake of obtaining the author's
blessing, and the manuscripts were eagerly bought. Among the
distinguished men who wrote in his defence we can mention here only
Majdu ’l-Dín al-Fírúzábádí († 1414 A.D.), the author of the great Arabic
lexicon entitled _al-Qámús_; Jalálu ’l-Dín al-Suyúṭí († 1445 A.D.);
and ‘Abdu ’l-Wahháb al-Sha‘rání († 1565 A.D.). The fundamental principle
of his system is the Unity of Being (_waḥdatu ’l-wujúd_). There is no
real difference between the Essence and its attributes or, in other
words, between God and the universe. All created things subsist
eternally as ideas (_a‘yán thábita_) in the knowledge of God, and since
being is identical with knowledge, their "creation" only means His
knowing them, or Himself, under the aspect of actuality; the universe,
in fact, is the concrete sum of the relations of the Essence as subject
to itself as object. This pantheistic monism puts on an Islamic mask in
the doctrine of "the Perfect Man" (_al-Insán al-Kámil_), a phrase which
Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí was the first to associate with it. The Divine
consciousness, evolving through a series of five planes
(_ḥaḍarát_), attains to complete expression in Man, the
microcosmic being who unites the creative and creaturely attributes of
the Essence and is at once the image of God and the archetype of the
universe. Only through him does God know Himself and make Himself known;
he is the eye of the world whereby God sees His own works. The daring
paradoxes of Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí's dialectic are illustrated by such verses
as these:--

  He praises me (by manifesting my perfections and creating me in
    His form),
  And I praise Him (by manifesting His perfections and obeying Him).
  How can He be independent when I help and aid Him? (because the Divine
    attributes derive the possibility of manifestation from their human
  For that cause God brought me into existence,
  And I know Him and bring Him into existence (in my knowledge
    and contemplation of Him).[754]

Thus it is the primary function of Man to reveal and realise his Divine
nature; and the Perfect Men, regarded individually, are the prophets and
saints. Here the doctrine--an amalgam of Manichæan, Gnostic,
Neo-platonic and Christian speculations--attaches itself to Muḥammad,
"the Seal of the prophets." According to Moslem belief, the pre-existent
Spirit or Light of Muḥammad (_Núr Muḥammadí_) became incarnate in
Adam and in the whole series of prophets, of whom Muḥammad is the
last. Muḥammad, then, is the Logos,[755] the Mediator, the Vicegerent
of God (_Khalífat Allah_), the God-Man who has descended to this earthly
sphere to make manifest the glory of Him who brought the universe into

But, of course, Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí's philosophy carries him far beyond the
realm of positive religion. If God is the "self" of all things sensible
and intelligible, it follows that He reveals Himself in every form of
belief in a degree proportionate to the pre-determined capacity of the
believer; the mystic alone sees that He is One in all forms, for the
mystic's heart is all-receptive: it assumes whatever form God reveals
Himself in, as wax takes the impression of the seal.

 "My heart is capable of every form,
  A cloister for the monk, a fane for idols,
  A pasture for gazelles, the pilgrim's Ka‘ba,
  The Tables of the Torah, the Koran.
  Love is the faith I hold: wherever turn
  His camels, still the one true faith is mine."[756]

The vast bulk of Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí's writings, his technical and scholastic
terminology, his recondite modes of thought, and the lack of method in
his exposition have, until recently, deterred European Orientalists from
bestowing on him the attention which he deserves.[757] In the history of
Ṣúfiism his name marks an epoch: it is owing to him that what began
as a profoundly religious personal movement in Islam ends as an eclectic
and definitely pantheistic system of philosophy. The title of "The Grand
Master" (_al-Shaykh al-Akbar_), by which he is commonly designated,
bears witness to his supremacy in the world of Moslem mysticism from the
Mongol Invasion to the present day. In Persia and Turkey his influence
has been enormous, and through his pupil, Ṣadru ’l-Dín of Qóniya, he
is linked with the greatest of all Ṣúfí poets, Jalálu ’l-Dín Rúmí,
the author of the _Mathnawí_, who died some thirty years after him. Nor
did all those who borrowed his ideas call themselves Moslems. He
inspired, amongst other mediæval Christian writers, "the Illuminated
Doctor" Raymond Lull, and probably Dante.[758]



It will be remembered that before the end of the first century of the
Hijra, in the reign of the Umayyad Caliph, Walíd b. ‘Abd al-Malik
(705-715 A.D.), the Moslems under Ṭáriq and Músá b. Nuṣayr,
crossed the Mediterranean, and having defeated Roderic the Goth in a
great battle near Cadiz, rapidly brought the whole of Spain into
subjection. The fate of the new province was long doubtful. The Berber
insurrection which raged in Africa (734-742 A.D.) spread to Spain and
threatened to exterminate the handful of Arab colonists; and no sooner
was this danger past than the victors began to rekindle the old feuds
and jealousies which they had inherited from their ancestors of Qays and
Kalb. Once more the rival factions of Syria and Yemen flew to arms, and
the land was plunged in anarchy.

[Sidenote: ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán, the Umayyad.]

Meanwhile ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán b. Mu‘áwiya, a grandson of the Caliph
Hishám, had escaped from the general massacre with which the ‘Abbásids
celebrated their triumph over the House of Umayya, and after five years
of wandering adventure, accompanied only by his faithful freedman, Badr,
had reached the neighbourhood of Ceuta, where he found a precarious
shelter with the Berber tribes. Young, ambitious, and full of confidence
in his destiny, ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán conceived the bold plan of throwing
himself into Spain and of winning a kingdom with the help of the Arabs,
amongst whom, as he well knew, there were many clients of his own
family. Accordingly in 755 A.D. he sent Badr across the sea on a secret
mission. The envoy accomplished even more than was expected of him. To
gain over the clients was easy, for ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán was their natural
chief, and in the event of his success they would share with him the
prize. Their number, however, was comparatively small. The pretender
could not hope to achieve anything unless he were supported by one of
the great parties, Syrians or Yemenites. At this time the former, led by
the feeble governor, Yúsuf b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmán al-Fihrí, and his cruel
but capable lieutenant, Ṣumayl b. Ḥátim, held the reins of power
and were pursuing their adversaries with ruthless ferocity. The
Yemenites, therefore, hastened to range themselves on the side of ‘Abdu
’l-Raḥmán, not that they loved his cause, but inspired solely by the
prospect of taking a bloody vengeance upon the Syrians. These Spanish
Moslems belonged to the true Bedouin stock!

A few months later ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán landed in Spain, occupied Seville,
and, routing Yúsuf and Ṣumayl under the walls of Cordova, made
himself master of the capital. On the same evening he presided, as
Governor of Spain, over the citizens assembled for public worship in the
great Mosque (May, 756 A.D.).

During his long reign of thirty-two years ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán was busily
employed in defending and consolidating the empire which more than once
seemed to be on the point of slipping from his grasp. The task before
him was arduous in the extreme. On the one hand, he was confronted by
the unruly Arab aristocracy, jealous of their independence and regarding
the monarch as their common foe. Between him and them no permanent
compromise was possible, and since they could only be kept in check by
an armed force stronger than themselves, he was compelled to rely on
mercenaries, for the most part Berbers imported from Africa. Thus, by a
fatal necessity the Moslem Empire in the West gradually assumed that
despotic and Prætorian character which we have learned to associate with
the ‘Abbásid Government in the period of its decline, and the results
were in the end hardly less disastrous. The monarchy had also to reckon
with the fanaticism of its Christian subjects and with a formidable
Spanish national party eager to throw off the foreign yoke.
Extraordinary energy and tact were needed to maintain authority over
these explosive elements, and if the dynasty founded by ‘Abdu
’l-Raḥmán not only survived for two centuries and a half but gave to
Spain a more splendid era of prosperity and culture than she had ever
enjoyed, the credit is mainly due to the bold adventurer from whom even
his enemies could not withhold a tribute of admiration. One day, it is
said, the Caliph Manṣúr asked his courtiers, "Who is the Falcon of
Quraysh?" They replied, "O Prince of the Faithful, that title belongs to
you who have vanquished mighty kings and have put an end to civil war."
"No," said the Caliph, "it is not I." "Mu‘áwiya, then, or ‘Abdu
’l-Malik?" "No," said Manṣúr, "the Falcon of Quraysh is ‘Abdu
’l-Raḥmán b. Mu‘áwiya, he who traversed alone the deserts of Asia and
Africa, and without an army to aid him sought his fortune in an unknown
country beyond the sea. With no weapons except judgment and resolution
he subdued his enemies, crushed the rebels, secured his frontiers, and
founded a great empire. Such a feat was never achieved by any one

[Sidenote: Islam in Spain.]

[Sidenote: Yaḥyá b. Yaḥyá.]

[Sidenote: The Revolt of the Suburb.]

Of the Moslems in Spain the Arabs formed only a small minority, and
they, moreover, showed all the indifference towards religion and
contempt for the laws of Islam which might be expected from men imbued
with Bedouin traditions whose forbears had been devotedly attached to
the world-loving Umayyads of Damascus. It was otherwise with the Spanish
converts, the so-called 'Renegades' or _Muwalladún_ (Affiliati) living
as clients under protection of the Arab nobility, and with the Berbers.
These races took their adopted religion very seriously, in accordance
with the fervid and sombre temperament which has always distinguished
them. Hence among the mass of Spanish Moslems a rigorous orthodoxy
prevailed. The Berber, Yaḥyá b. Yaḥyá († 849 A.D.), is a typical
figure. At the age of twenty-eight years he travelled to the East and
studied under Málik. b Anas, who dictated to him his celebrated work
known as the _Muwaṭṭa’_. Yaḥyá was one day at Málik's lecture
with a number of fellow-students, when some one said, "Here comes the
elephant!" All of them ran out to see the animal, but Yaḥyá did not
stir. "Why," said Málik, "do you not go out and look at it? Such animals
are not to be seen in Spain." To this Yaḥyá replied, "I left my
country for the purpose of seeing you and obtaining knowledge under your
guidance. I did not come here to see the elephant." Málik was so pleased
with this answer that he called him the most intelligent (_‘áqil_) of
the people of Spain. On his return to Spain Yaḥyá exerted himself to
spread the doctrines of his master, and though he obstinately refused,
on religious grounds, to accept any public office, his influence and
reputation were such that, as Ibn Ḥazm says, no Cadi was ever
appointed till Yaḥyá had given his opinion and designated the person
whom he preferred.[760] Thus the Málikite system, based on close
adherence to tradition, became the law of the land. "The Spaniards," it
is observed by a learned writer of the tenth century, "recognise only
the Koran and the _Muwaṭṭa’_; if they find a follower of Abú
Ḥanífa or Sháfi‘í, they banish him from Spain, and if they meet with
a Mu‘tazilite or a Shí‘ite or any one of that sort, they often put him
to death."[761] Arrogant, intensely bigoted, and ambitious of power, the
Muḥammadan clergy were not disposed to play a subordinate rôle in the
State. In Hishám (788-796 A.D.), the successor of ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán,
they had a prince after their own heart, whose piety and devotion to
their interests left nothing to be desired. Ḥakam (796-822 A.D.) was
less complaisant. He honoured and respected the clergy, but at the same
time he let them see that he would not permit them to interfere in
political affairs. The malcontents, headed by the fiery Yaḥyá b.
Yaḥyá, replied with menaces and insults, and called on the populace
of Cordova--especially the 'Renegades' in the southern quarter
(_rabaḍ_) of the city--to rise against the tyrant and his insolent
soldiery. One day in Ramaḍán, 198 A.H. (May, 814 A.D.), Ḥakam
suddenly found himself cut off from the garrison and besieged in his
palace by an infuriated mob, but he did not lose courage, and, thanks to
his coolness and skilful strategy, he came safely out of the peril in
which he stood. The revolutionary suburb was burned to the ground and
those of its inhabitants who escaped massacre, some 60,000 souls, were
driven into exile. The real culprits went unpunished. Ḥakam could not
afford further to exasperate the divines, who on their part began to
perceive that they might obtain from the prince by favour what they had
failed to wring from him by force. Being mostly Arabs or Berbers, they
had a strong claim to his consideration. Their power was soon restored,
and in the reign of ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán II (822-852 A.D.) Yaḥyá
himself, the ringleader of the mutiny, directed ecclesiastical policy
and dispensed judicial patronage as he pleased.

[Sidenote: ‘Umar b. Ḥafṣún.]

The Revolt of the Suburb was only an episode in the long and sanguinary
struggle between the Spaniards, Moslem or Christian, on the one hand,
and the monarchy of Cordova on the other--a struggle complicated by the
rival Arab tribes, which sometimes patched up their own feuds in order
to defend themselves against the Spanish patriots, but never in any
circumstances gave their support to the detested Umayyad Government. The
hero of this war of independence was ‘Umar b. Ḥafṣún. He belonged
to a noble family of West-Gothic origin which had gone over to Islam and
settled in the mountainous district north-east of Malaga. Hot-blooded,
quarrelsome, and ready to stab on the slightest provocation, the young
man soon fell into trouble. At first he took shelter in the wild
fastnesses of Ronda, where he lived as a brigand until he was captured
by the police. He then crossed the sea to Africa, but in a short time
returned to his old haunts and put himself at the head of a band of
robbers. Here he held out for two years, when, having been obliged to
surrender, he accepted the proposal of the Sultan of Cordova that he and
his companions should enlist in the Imperial army. But ‘Umar was
destined for greater glory than the Sultan could confer upon him. A few
contemptuous words from a superior officer touched his pride to the
quick, so one fine day he galloped off with all his men in the direction
of Ronda. They found an almost impregnable retreat in the castle of
Bobastro, which had once been a Roman fortress. From this moment, says
Dozy, ‘Umar b. Ḥafṣún was no longer a brigand-chief, but leader of
the whole Spanish race in the south. The lawless and petulant free-lance
was transformed into a high-minded patriot, celebrated for the stern
justice with which he punished the least act of violence, adored by his
soldiers, and regarded by his countrymen as the champion of the national
cause. During the rest of his life (884-917 A.D.) he conducted the
guerilla with untiring energy and made himself a terror to the Arabs,
but fortune deserted him at the last, and he died--_felix opportunitate
mortis_--only a few years before complete ruin overtook his party. The
Moslem Spaniards, whose enthusiasm had been sensibly weakened by their
leader's conversion to Christianity, were the more anxious to make their
peace with the Government, since they saw plainly the hopelessness of
continuing the struggle.

In 912 A.D. ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán III, the Defender of the Faith
(_al-Náṣir li-díní ’lláh_), succeeded his grandfather, the Amír
‘Abdulláh, on the throne of Cordova. The character, genius, and
enterprise of this great monarch are strikingly depicted in the
following passage from the pen of an eloquent historian whose work,
although it was published some fifty years ago, will always be

  [Sidenote: ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán III (912-961 A.D).]

  "Amongst the Umayyad sovereigns who have ruled Spain the first place
  belongs incontestably to ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán III. What he
  accomplished was almost miraculous. He had found the empire
  abandoned to anarchy and civil war, rent by factions, parcelled
  amongst a multitude of heterogeneous princes, exposed to incessant
  attacks from the Christians of the north, and on the eve of being
  swallowed up either by the Léonnese or the Africans. In spite of
  innumerable obstacles he had saved Spain both from herself and from
  the foreign domination. He had endowed her with new life and made
  her greater and stronger than she had ever been. He had given her
  order and prosperity at home, consideration and respect abroad. The
  public treasury, which he had found in a deplorable condition, was
  now overflowing. Of the Imperial revenues, which amounted annually
  to 6,245,000 pieces of gold, a third sufficed for ordinary expenses;
  a third was held in reserve, and ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán devoted the
  remainder to his buildings. It was calculated that in the year 951
  he had in his coffers the enormous sum of 20,000,000 pieces of gold,
  so that a traveller not without judgment in matters of finance
  assures us that ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán and the Ḥamdánid (Náṣiru
  ’l-Dawla), who was then reigning over Mesopotamia, were the
  wealthiest princes of that epoch. The state of the country was in
  keeping with the prosperous condition of the treasury. Agriculture,
  industry, commerce, the arts and the sciences, all flourished....
  Cordova, with its half-million inhabitants, its three thousand
  mosques, its superb palaces, its hundred and thirteen thousand
  houses, its three hundred bagnios, and its twenty-eight suburbs, was
  inferior in extent and splendour only to Baghdád, with which city
  the Cordovans loved to compare it.... The power of ‘Abdu
  ’l-Raḥmán was formidable. A magnificent fleet enabled him to
  dispute with the Fáṭimids the empire of the Mediterranean, and
  secured him in the possession of Ceuta, the key of Mauritania. A
  numerous and well-disciplined army, perhaps the finest in the world,
  gave him superiority over the Christians of the north. The proudest
  sovereigns solicited his alliance. The emperor of Constantinople,
  the kings of Germany, Italy, and France sent ambassadors to him.

  "Assuredly, these were brilliant results; but what excites our
  astonishment and admiration when we study this glorious reign is not
  so much the work as the workman: it is the might of that
  comprehensive intelligence which nothing escaped, and which showed
  itself no less admirable in the minutest details than in the
  loftiest conceptions. This subtle and sagacious man, who
  centralises, who founds the unity of the nation and of the monarchy,
  who by means of his alliances establishes a sort of political
  equilibrium, who in his large tolerance calls the professors of
  another religion into his councils, is a modern king rather than a
  mediæval Caliph."[763]

[Sidenote: Regency of Manṣúr Ibn Abí ‘Ámir (976-1002 A.D.).]

In short, ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán III made the Spanish Moslems one people,
and formed out of Arabs and Spaniards a united Andalusian nation, which,
as we shall presently see, advanced with incredible swiftness to a
height of culture that was the envy of Europe and was not exceeded by
any contemporary State in the Muḥammadan East. With his death,
however, the decline of the Umayyad dynasty began. His son, Ḥakam II
(† 976 A.D.), left as heir-apparent a boy eleven years old, Hishám II,
who received the title of Caliph while the government was carried on by
his mother Aurora and the ambitious minister Muḥammad b. Abí ‘Ámir.
The latter was virtually monarch of Spain, and whatever may be thought
of the means by which he rose to eminence, or of his treatment of the
unfortunate Caliph whose mental faculties he deliberately stunted and
whom he condemned to a life of monkish seclusion, it is impossible to
deny that he ruled well and nobly. He was a great statesman and a great
soldier. No one could accuse him of making an idle boast when he named
himself 'Al-Manṣúr' ('The Victorious'). Twice every year he was
accustomed to lead his army against the Christians, and such was the
panic which he inspired that in the course of more than fifty campaigns
he scarcely ever lost a battle. He died in 1002 A.D. A Christian monk,
recording the event in his chronicle, adds, "he was buried in Hell," but
Moslem hands engraved the following lines upon the tomb of their

 "His story in his relics you may trace,
  As tho' he stood before you face to face.
  Never will Time bring forth his peer again,
  Nor one to guard, like him, the gaps of Spain."[764]

His demise left the Prætorians masters of the situation. Berbers and
Slaves[765] divided the kingdom between them, and amidst revolution and
civil war the Umayyad dynasty passed away (1031 A.D.).

[Sidenote: The Party Kings (_Mulúku ’l-Ṭawá’if_).]

It has been said with truth that the history of Spain in the eleventh
century bears a close resemblance to that of Italy in the fifteenth. The
splendid empire of ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán III was broken up, and from its
ruins there emerged a fortuitous conglomeration of petty states governed
by successful condottieri. Of these Party Kings (_Mulúku
’l-Ṭawá’if_), as they are called by Muḥammadan writers, the most
powerful were the ‘Abbádids of Seville. Although it was an age of
political decay, the material prosperity of Spain had as yet suffered
little diminution, whilst in point of culture the society of this time
reached a level hitherto unequalled. Here, then, we may pause for a
moment to review the progress of literature and science during the most
fruitful period of the Moslem occupation of European soil.

[Sidenote: Influence of Arabic culture on the Spaniards.]

Whilst in Asia, as we have seen, the Arab conquerors yielded to the
spell of an ancient culture infinitely superior to their own, they no
sooner crossed the Straits of Gibraltar than the rôles were reversed. As
the invaders extended their conquests to every part of the peninsula,
thousands of Christians fell into their hands, who generally continued
to live under Moslem protection. They were well treated by the
Government, enjoyed religious liberty, and often rose to high offices in
the army or at court. Many of them became rapidly imbued with Moslem
civilisation, so that as early as the middle of the ninth century we
find Alvaro, Bishop of Cordova, complaining that his co-religionists
read the poems and romances of the Arabs, and studied the writings of
Muḥammadan theologians and philosophers, not in order to refute them
but to learn how to express themselves in Arabic with correctness and
elegance. "Where," he asks, "can any one meet nowadays with a layman who
reads the Latin commentaries on the Holy Scriptures? Who studies the
Gospels, the Prophets, the Apostles? Alas, all young Christians of
conspicuous talents are acquainted only with the language and writings
of the Arabs; they read and study Arabic books with the utmost zeal,
spend immense sums of money in collecting them for their libraries, and
proclaim everywhere that this literature is admirable. On the other
hand, if you talk with them of Christian books, they reply
contemptuously that these books are not worth their notice. Alas, the
Christians have forgotten their own language, and amongst thousands of
us scarce one is to be found who can write a tolerable Latin letter to a
friend; whereas very many are capable of expressing themselves
exquisitely in Arabic and of composing poems in that tongue with even
greater skill than the Arabs themselves."[766]

However the good bishop may have exaggerated, it is evident that
Muḥammadan culture had a strong attraction for the Spanish
Christians, and equally, let us add, for the Jews, who made numerous
contributions to poetry, philosophy, and science in their native speech
as well as in the kindred Arabic idiom. The 'Renegades,' or Spanish
converts to Islam, became completely Arabicised in the course of a few
generations; and from this class sprang some of the chief ornaments of
Spanish-Arabian literature.

[Sidenote: The poetry of the Spanish Arabs.]

Considered as a whole, the poetry of the Moslems in Europe shows the
same characteristics which have already been noted in the work of their
Eastern contemporaries. The paralysing conventions from which the
laureates of Baghdád and Aleppo could not emancipate themselves remained
in full force at Cordova and Seville. Yet, just as Arabic poetry in the
East was modified by the influences of Persian culture, in Spain also
the gradual amalgamation of Aryans with Semites introduced new elements
which have left their mark on the literature of both races. Perhaps the
most interesting features of Spanish-Arabian poetry are the tenderly
romantic feeling which not infrequently appears in the love-songs, a
feeling that sometimes anticipates the attitude of mediæval chivalry;
and in the second place an almost modern sensibility to the beauties of
nature. On account of these characteristics the poems in question appeal
to many European readers who do not easily enter into the spirit of the
_Mu‘allaqát_ or the odes of Mutanabbí, and if space allowed it would be
a pleasant task to translate some of the charming lyric and descriptive
pieces which have been collected by anthologists. The omission, however,
is less grave inasmuch as Von Schack has given us a series of excellent
versions in his _Poesie und Kunst der Araber in Spanien und Sicilien_
(2nd ed., Stuttgart, 1877).

[Sidenote: Folk-songs.]

"One of its marvels," says Qazwíní, referring to the town of Shilb
(Silves) in Portugal, "is the fact, which innumerable persons have
mentioned, that the people living there, with few exceptions, are makers
of verse and devoted to belles-lettres; and if you passed by a labourer
standing behind his plough and asked him to recite some verses, he would
at once improvise on any subject that you might demand."[767] Of such
folk-songs the _zajal_ and _muwashshaḥ_ were favourite types.[768]
Both forms were invented in Spain, and their structure is very similar,
consisting of several stanzas in which the rhymes are so arranged that
the master-rhyme ending each stanza and running through the whole poem
like a refrain is continually interrupted by a various succession of
subordinate rhymes, as is shown in the following scheme:--


Many of these songs and ballads were composed in the vulgar dialect and
without regard to the rules of classical prosody. The troubadour Ibn
Quzmán († 1160 A.D.) first raised the _zajal_ to literary rank. Here is
an example of the _muwashshaḥ_:--

 "Come, hand the precious cup to me,
  And brim it high with a golden sea!
  Let the old wine circle from guest to guest,
  While the bubbles gleam like pearls on its breast,
  So that night is of darkness dispossessed.
  How it foams and twinkles in fiery glee!
  'Tis drawn from the Pleiads' cluster, perdie.

  Pass it, to music's melting sound,
  Here on this flowery carpet round,
  Where gentle dews refresh the ground
  And bathe my limbs deliciously
  In their cool and balmy fragrancy.

  Alone with me in the garden green
  A singing-girl enchants the scene:
  Her smile diffuses a radiant sheen.
  I cast off shame, for no spy can see,
  And 'Hola,' I cry, 'let us merry be!'"[769]

[Sidenote: Verses by ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán I.]

True to the traditions of their family, the Spanish Umayyads loved
poetry, music, and polite literature a great deal better than the Koran.
Even the Falcon of Quraysh, ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán I, if the famous verses
on the Palm-tree are really by him, concealed something of the softer
graces under his grim exterior. It is said that in his gardens at
Cordova there was a solitary date-palm, which had been transplanted from
Syria, and that one day ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán, as he gazed upon it,
remembered his native land and felt the bitterness of exile and

 "O Palm, thou art a stranger in the West,
  Far from thy Orient home, like me unblest.
  Weep! But thou canst not. Dumb, dejected tree,
  Thou art not made to sympathise with me.
  Ah, thou wouldst weep, if thou hadst tears to pour,
  For thy companions on Euphrates' shore;
  But yonder tall groves thou rememberest not,
  As I, in hating foes, have my old friends forgot."[770]

[Sidenote: Ziryáb the musician.]

At the court of ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán II (822-852 A.D.) a Persian musician
was prime favourite. This was Ziryáb, a client of the Caliph Mahdí and a
pupil of the celebrated singer, Isḥáq al-Mawṣilí.[771] Isḥáq,
seeing in the young man a dangerous rival to himself, persuaded him to
quit Baghdád and seek his fortune in Spain. ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán received
him with open arms, gave him a magnificent house and princely salary,
and bestowed upon him every mark of honour imaginable. The versatile and
accomplished artist wielded a vast influence. He set the fashion in all
things appertaining to taste and manners; he fixed the toilette,
sanctioned the cuisine, and prescribed what dress should be worn in the
different seasons of the year. The kings of Spain took him as a model,
and his authority was constantly invoked and universally recognised in
that country down to the last days of Moslem rule.[772] Ziryáb was only
one of many talented and learned men who came to Spain from the East,
while the list of Spanish savants who journeyed "in quest of knowledge"
(_fí ṭalabi ’l-‘ilm_) to Africa and Egypt, to the Holy Cities of
Arabia, to the great capitals of Syria and ‘Iráq, to Khurásán,
Transoxania, and in some cases even to China, includes, as may be seen
from the perusal of Maqqarí's fifth chapter, nearly all the eminent
scholars and men of letters whom Moslem Spain has produced. Thus a
lively exchange of ideas was continually in movement, and so little
provincialism existed that famous Andalusian poets, like Ibn Hání and
Ibn Zaydún, are described by admiring Eastern critics as the Buḥturís
and Mutanabbís of the West.

[Sidenote: The Library of Ḥakam II.]

The tenth century of the Christian era is a fortunate and illustrious
period in Spanish history. Under ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán III and his
successor, Ḥakam II, the nation, hitherto torn asunder by civil war,
bent its united energies to the advancement of material and intellectual
culture. Ḥakam was an enthusiastic bibliophile. He sent his agents in
every direction to purchase manuscripts, and collected 400,000 volumes
in his palace, which was thronged with librarians, copyists, and
bookbinders. All these books, we are told, he had himself read, and he
annotated most of them with his own hand. His munificence to scholars
knew no bounds. He made a present of 1,000 dínárs to Abu ’l-Faraj of
Iṣfahán, in order to secure the first copy that was published of the
great 'Book of Songs' (_Kitábu ’l-Aghání_), on which the author was then
engaged. Besides honouring and encouraging the learned, Ḥakam took
measures to spread the benefits of education amongst the poorest of his
subjects. With this view he founded twenty-seven free schools in the
capital and paid the teachers out of his private purse. Whilst in
Christian Europe the rudiments of learning were confined to the clergy,
in Spain almost every one could read and write.

  [Sidenote: The University of Cordova.]

  "The University of Cordova was at that time one of the most
  celebrated in the world. In the principal Mosque, where the lectures
  were held, Abú Bakr b. Mu‘áwiya, the Qurayshite, discussed the
  Traditions relating to Muḥammad. Abú ‘Alí al-Qálí of Baghdád
  dictated a large and excellent miscellany which contained an immense
  quantity of curious information concerning the ancient Arabs, their
  proverbs, their language, and their poetry. This collection he
  afterwards published under the title of _Amálí_, or 'Dictations.'
  Grammar was taught by Ibnu ’l-Qúṭiyya, who, in the opinion of Abú
  ‘Ali al-Qálí, was the leading grammarian of Spain. Other sciences
  had representatives no less renowned. Accordingly the students
  attending the classes were reckoned by thousands. The majority were
  students of what was called _fiqh_, that is to say, theology and
  law, for that science then opened the way to the most lucrative

Among the notable savants of this epoch we may mention Ibn ‘Abdi Rabbihi
(† 940 A.D.), laureate of ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán III and author of a
well-known anthology entitled _al-‘Iqd al-Faríd_; the poet Ibn Hání of
Seville († 973 A.D.), an Ismá‘ílí convert who addressed blasphemous
panegyrics to the Fáṭimid Caliph Mu‘izz;[774] the historians of
Spain, Abú Bakr al-Rází († 937 A.D.), whose family belonged to Rayy in
Persia, and Ibnu ’l-Qúṭiyya († 977 A.D.), who, as his name indicates,
was the descendant of a Gothic princess; the astronomer and
mathematician Maslama b. Aḥmad of Madrid († 1007 A.D.); and the great
surgeon Abu ’l-Qásim al-Zahráwí of Cordova, who died about the same
time, and who became known to Europe by the name of Albucasis.

[Sidenote: The ‘Abbádids (1023-1091 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Mu‘tamid of Seville (1069-1091 A.D.).]

The fall of the Spanish Umayyads, which took place in the first half of
the eleventh century, left Cordova a republic and a merely provincial
town; and though she might still claim to be regarded as the literary
metropolis of Spain, her ancient glories were overshadowed by the
independent dynasties which now begin to flourish in Seville, Almeria,
Badajoz, Granada, Toledo, Malaga, Valencia, and other cities. Of these
rival princedoms the most formidable in arms and the most brilliant in
its cultivation of the arts was, beyond question, the family of the
‘Abbádids, who reigned in Seville. The foundations of their power were
laid by the Cadi Abu ’l-Qásim Muḥammad. "He acted towards the people
with such justice and moderation as drew on him the attention of every
eye and the love of every heart," so that the office of chief magistrate
was willingly conceded to him. In order to obtain the monarchy which he
coveted, the Cadi employed an audacious ruse. The last Umayyad Caliph,
Hishám II, had vanished mysteriously: it was generally supposed that,
after escaping from Cordova when that city was stormed by the Berbers
(1013 A.D.), he fled to Asia and died unknown; but many believed that he
was still alive. Twenty years after his disappearance there suddenly
arose a pretender, named Khalaf, who gave out that he was the Caliph
Hishám. The likeness between them was strong enough to make the
imposture plausible. At any rate, the Cadi had his own reasons for
abetting it. He called on the people, who were deeply attached to the
Umayyad dynasty, to rally round their legitimate sovereign. Cordova and
several other States recognised the authority of this pseudo-Caliph,
whom Abu ’l-Qásim used as a catspaw. His son ‘Abbád, a treacherous and
bloodthirsty tyrant, but an amateur of belles-lettres, threw off the
mask and reigned under the title of al-Mu‘taḍid (1042-1069 A.D.). He
in turn was succeeded by his son, al-Mu‘tamid, whose strange and
romantic history reminds one of a sentence frequently occurring in the
_Arabian Nights_: "Were it graven with needle-gravers upon the
eye-corners, it were a warner to whoso would be warned." He is described
as "the most liberal, the most hospitable, the most munificent, and the
most powerful of all the princes who ruled in Spain. His court was the
halting-place of travellers, the rendezvous of poets, the point to which
all hopes were directed, and the haunt of men of talent."[775] Mu‘tamid
himself was a poet of rare distinction. "He left," says Ibn Bassám,
"some pieces of verse beautiful as the bud when it opens to disclose the
flower; and had the like been composed by persons who made of poetry a
profession and a merchandise, they would still have been considered
charming, admirable, and singularly original."[776] Numberless anecdotes
are told of Mu‘tamid's luxurious life at Seville: his evening rambles
along the banks of the Guadalquivir; his parties of pleasure; his
adventures when he sallied forth in disguise, accompanied by his Vizier,
the poet Ibn ‘Ammár, into the streets of the sleeping city; and his
passion for the slave-girl I‘timád, commonly known as Rumaykiyya, whom
he loved all his life with constant devotion.

Meanwhile, however, a terrible catastrophe was approaching. The causes
which led up to it are related by Ibn Khallikán as follows[777]:--

  [Sidenote: The Almoravides in Spain.]

  [Sidenote: Battle of Zalláqa (October 23, 1086 A.D.).]

  "At that time Alphonso VI, the son of Ferdinand, the sovereign of
  Castile and king of the Spanish Franks, had become so powerful that
  the petty Moslem princes were obliged to make peace with him and pay
  him tribute. Mu‘tamid Ibn ‘Abbád surpassed all the rest in greatness
  of power and extent of empire, yet he also paid tribute to Alphonso.
  After capturing Toledo (May 29, 1085 A.D.) the Christian monarch
  sent him a threatening message with the demand that he should
  surrender his fortresses; on which condition he might retain the
  open country as his own. These words provoked Mu‘tamid to such a
  degree that he struck the ambassador and put to death all those who
  accompanied him.[778] Alphonso, who was marching on Cordova, no
  sooner received intelligence of this event than he returned to
  Toledo in order to provide machines for the siege of Seville. When
  the Shaykhs and doctors of Islam were informed of this project they
  assembled and said: 'Behold how the Moslem cities fall into the
  hands of the Franks whilst our sovereigns are engaged in warfare
  against each other! If things continue in this state the Franks will
  subdue the entire country.' They then went to the Cadi (of Cordova),
  ‘Abdulláh b. Muḥammad b. Adham, and conferred with him on the
  disasters which had befallen the Moslems and on the means by which
  they might be remedied. Every person had something to say, but it
  was finally resolved that they should write to Abú Ya‘qúb Yúsuf b.
  Táshifín, the king of the _Mulaththamún_[779] and sovereign of
  Morocco, imploring his assistance. The Cadi then waited on Mu‘tamid,
  and informed him of what had passed. Mu‘tamid concurred with them on
  the expediency of such an application, and told the Cadi to bear the
  message himself to Yúsuf b. Táshifín. A conference took place at
  Ceuta. Yúsuf recalled from the city of Morocco the troops which he
  had left there, and when all were mustered he sent them across to
  Spain, and followed with a body of 10,000 men. Mu‘tamid, who had
  also assembled an army, went to meet him; and the Moslems, on
  hearing the news, hastened from every province for the purpose of
  combating the infidels. Alphonso, who was then at Toledo, took the
  field with 40,000 horse, exclusive of other troops which came to
  join him. He wrote a long and threatening letter to Yúsuf b.
  Táshifín, who inscribed on the back of it these words: '_What will
  happen thou shalt see!_' and returned it. On reading the answer
  Alphonso was filled with apprehension, and observed that this was a
  man of resolution. The two armies met at Zalláqa, near Badajoz. The
  Moslems gained the victory, and Alphonso fled with a few others,
  after witnessing the complete destruction of his army. This year was
  adopted in Spain as the commencement of a new era, and was called
  the year of Zalláqa."

[Sidenote: Captivity and death of Mu‘tamid.]

Mu‘tamid soon perceived that he had "dug his own grave"--to quote the
words used by himself a few years afterwards--when he sought aid from
the perfidious Almoravide. Yúsuf could not but contrast the beauty,
riches, and magnificent resources of Spain with the barren deserts and
rude civilisation of Africa. He was not content to admire at a distance
the enchanting view which had been dangled before him. In the following
year he returned to Spain and took possession of Granada. He next
proceeded to pick a quarrel with Mu‘tamid. The Berber army laid siege to
Seville, and although Mu‘tamid displayed the utmost bravery, he was
unable to prevent the fall of his capital (September, 1091 A.D.). The
unfortunate prince was thrown into chains and transported to Morocco.
Yúsuf spared his life, but kept him a prisoner at Aghmát, where he died
in 1095 A.D. During his captivity he bewailed in touching poems the
misery of his state, the sufferings which he and his family had to
endure, and the tragic doom which suddenly deprived him of friends,
fortune, and power. "Every one loves Mu‘tamid," wrote an historian of
the thirteenth century, "every one pities him, and even now he is
lamented."[780] He deserved no less, for, as Dozy remarks, he was "the
last Spanish-born king (_le dernier roi indigène_), who represented
worthily, nay, brilliantly, a nationality and culture which succumbed,
or barely survived, under the dominion of barbarian invaders."[781]

[Sidenote: Ibn Zaydún.]

The Age of the Tyrants, to borrow from Greek history a designation which
well describes the character of this period, yields to no other in
literary and scientific renown. Poetry was cultivated at every
Andalusian court. If Seville could point with just pride to Mu‘tamid and
his Vizier, Ibn ‘Ammár, Cordova claimed a second pair almost equally
illustrious--Ibn Zaydún (1003-1071 A.D.) and Walláda, a daughter of the
Umayyad Caliph al-Mustakfí. Ibn Zaydún entered upon a political career
and became the confidential agent of Ibn Jahwar, the chief magistrate of
Cordova, but he fell into disgrace, probably on account of his love for
the beautiful and talented princess, who inspired those tender melodies
which have caused the poet's European biographers to link his name with
Tibullus and Petrarch. In the hope of seeing her, although he durst not
show himself openly, he lingered in al-Zahrá, the royal suburb of
Cordova built by ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán III. At last, after many wanderings,
he found a home at Seville, where he was cordially received by
Mu‘taḍid, who treated him as an intimate friend and bestowed on him
the title of _Dhu ’l-Wizáratayn_.[782] The following verses, which he
addressed to Walláda, depict the lovely scenery of al-Zahrá and may
serve to illustrate the deep feeling for nature which, as has been said,
is characteristic of Spanish-Arabian poetry in general.[783]

 "To-day my longing thoughts recall thee here;
  The landscape glitters, and the sky is clear.
  So feebly breathes the gentle zephyr's gale,
  In pity of my grief it seems to fail.
  The silvery fountains laugh, as from a girl's
  Fair throat a broken necklace sheds its pearls.
  Oh, 'tis a day like those of our sweet prime,
  When, stealing pleasures from indulgent Time,
  We played midst flowers of eye-bewitching hue,
  That bent their heads beneath the drops of dew.
  Alas, they see me now bereaved of sleep;
  They share my passion and with me they weep.
  Here in her sunny haunt the rose blooms bright,
  Adding new lustre to Aurora's light;
  And waked by morning beams, yet languid still,
  The rival lotus doth his perfume spill.
  All stirs in me the memory of that fire
  Which in my tortured breast will ne'er expire.
  Had death come ere we parted, it had been
  The best of all days in the world, I ween;
  And this poor heart, where thou art every thing,
  Would not be fluttering now on passion's wing.
  Ah, might the zephyr waft me tenderly,
  Worn out with anguish as I am, to thee!
  O treasure mine, if lover e'er possessed
  A treasure! O thou dearest, queenliest!
  Once, once, we paid the debt of love complete
  And ran an equal race with eager feet.
  How true, how blameless was the love I bore,
  Thou hast forgotten; but I still adore!"

[Sidenote: Ibn Ḥazm (994-1064 A.D.).]

The greatest scholar and the most original genius of Moslem Spain is Abú
Muḥammad ‘Alí Ibn Ḥazm, who was born at Cordova in 994 A.D. He
came of a 'Renegade' family, but he was so far from honouring his
Christian ancestors that he pretended to trace his descent to a Persian
freedman of Yazíd b. Abí Sufyán, a brother of the first Umayyad Caliph,
Mu‘áwiya; and his contempt for Christianity was in proportion to his
fanatical zeal on behalf of Islam. His father, Aḥmad, had filled the
office of Vizier under Manṣúr Ibn Abí ‘Ámir, and Ibn Ḥazm himself
plunged ardently into politics as a client--through his false
pedigree--of the Umayyad House, to which he was devotedly attached.
Before the age of thirty he became prime minister of ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán
V (1023-1024 A.D.), but on the fall of the Umayyad Government he retired
from public life and gave himself wholly to literature. Ibn Bashkuwál,
author of a well-known biographical dictionary of Spanish celebrities
entitled _al-Ṣila fí akhbári a’immati ’l-Andalus_, speaks of him in
these terms: "Of all the natives of Spain Ibn Ḥazm was the most
eminent by the universality and the depth of his learning in the
sciences cultivated by the Moslems; add to this his profound
acquaintance with the Arabic tongue, and his vast abilities as an
elegant writer, a poet, a biographer, and an historian; his son
possessed about 400 volumes, containing nearly 80,000 leaves, which Ibn
Ḥazm had composed and written out."[784] It is recorded that he said,
"My only desire in seeking knowledge was to attain a high scientific
rank in this world and the next."[785] He got little encouragement from
his contemporaries. The mere fact that he belonged to the Ẓáhirite
school of theology would not have mattered, but the caustic style in
which he attacked the most venerable religious authorities of Islam
aroused such bitter hostility that he was virtually excommunicated by
the orthodox divines. People were warned against having anything to do
with him, and at Seville his writings were solemnly committed to the
flames. On this occasion he is said to have remarked--

 "The paper ye may burn, but what the paper holds
  Ye cannot burn: 'tis safe within my breast: where I
  Remove, it goes with me, alights when I alight,
  And in my tomb will lie."[786]

[Sidenote: 'The Book of Religions and Sects.']

After being expelled from several provinces of Spain, Ibn Ḥazm
withdrew to a village, of which he was the owner, and remained there
until his death. Of his numerous writings only a few have escaped
destruction, but fortunately we possess the most valuable of them all,
the 'Book of Religions and Sects' (_Kitábu ’l-Milal
wa-’l-Niḥal_),[787] which was recently printed in Cairo for the first
time. This work treats in controversial fashion (1) of the
non-Muḥammadan religious systems, especially Judaism, Christianity,
and Zoroastrianism, and (2) of Islam and its dogmas, which are of course
regarded from the Ẓáhirite standpoint, and of the four principal
Muḥammadan sects, viz., the Mu‘tazilites, the Murjites, the Shí‘ites,
and the Khárijites. The author maintains that these sects owed their
rise to the Persians, who sought thus to revenge themselves upon
victorious Islam.[788]

[Sidenote: Literature in Spain in the eleventh century.]

[Sidenote: Samuel Ha-Levi.]

The following are some of the most distinguished Spanish writers of this
epoch: the historian, Abú Marwán Ibn Ḥayyán of Cordova († 1075 A.D.),
whose chief works are a colossal history of Spain in sixty volumes
entitled _al-Matín_ and a smaller chronicle (_al-Muqtabis_), both of which
appear to have been almost entirely lost;[789] the jurisconsult and
poet, Abu ’l-Walíd al-Bájí († 1081 A.D.); the traditionist Yúsuf Ibn
‘Abd al-Barr († 1071 A.D.); and the geographer al-Bakrí, a native of
Cordova, where he died in 1094 A.D. Finally, mention should be made of
the famous Jews, Solomon Ibn Gabirol (Avicebron) and Samuel Ha-Levi. The
former, who was born at Malaga about 1020 A.D., wrote two philosophical
works in Arabic, and his _Fons Vitae_ played an important part in the
development of mediæval scholasticism. Samuel Ha-Levi was Vizier to
Bádís, the sovereign of Granada (1038-1073 A.D.). In their admiration of
his extraordinary accomplishments the Arabs all but forgot that he was a
Jew and a prince (_Naghíd_) in Israel.[790] Samuel, on his part, when he
wrote letters of State, did not scruple to employ the usual
Muḥammadan formulas, "Praise to Allah!" "May Allah bless our Prophet
Muḥammad!" and to glorify Islam quite in the manner of a good Moslem.
He had a perfect mastery of Hebrew and Arabic; he knew five other
languages, and was profoundly versed in the sciences of the ancients,
particularly in astronomy. With all his learning he was a supple
diplomat and a man of the world. Yet he always preserved a dignified and
unassuming demeanour, although in his days (according to Ibnu
’l-‘Idhárí) "the Jews made themselves powerful and behaved arrogantly
towards the Moslems."[791]

During the whole of the twelfth, and well into the first half of the
thirteenth, century Spain was ruled by two African dynasties, the
Almoravides and the Almohades, which originated, as their names denote,
in the religious fanaticism of the Berber tribes of the Sahara. The rise
of the Almoravides is related by Ibnu ’l-Athír as follows:--[792]

  [Sidenote: Rise of the Almoravides.]

  "In this year (448 A.H. = 1056 A.D.) was the beginning of the power
  of the _Mulaththamún_.[793] These were a number of tribes descended
  from Ḥimyar, of which the most considerable were Lamtúna, Jadála,
  and Lamṭa.... Now in the above-mentioned year a man of Jadála,
  named Jawhar, set out for Africa[794] on his way to the Pilgrimage,
  for he loved religion and the people thereof. At Qayrawán he fell in
  with a certain divine--Abú ‘Imrán al-Fásí, as is generally
  supposed--and a company of persons who were studying theology under
  him. Jawhar was much pleased with what he saw of their piety, and on
  his return from Mecca he begged Abú ‘Imrán to send back with him to
  the desert a teacher who should instruct the ignorant Berbers in the
  laws of Islam. So Abú ‘Imrán sent with him a man called ‘Abdulláh b.
  Yásín al-Kuzúlí, who was an excellent divine, and they journeyed
  together until they came to the tribe of Lamtúna. Then Jawhar
  dismounted from his camel and took hold of the bridle of ‘Abdulláh
  b. Yásín's camel, in reverence for the law of Islam; and the men of
  Lamtúna approached Jawhar and greeted him and questioned him
  concerning his companion. 'This man,' he replied, 'is the bearer of
  the Sunna of the Apostle of God: he has come to teach you what is
  necessary in the religion of Islam.' So they bade them both welcome,
  and said to ‘Abdulláh, 'Tell us the law of Islam,' and he explained
  it to them. They answered, 'As to what you have told us of prayer
  and alms-giving, that is easy; but when you say, "He that kills
  shall be killed, and he that steals shall have his hand cut off, and
  he that commits adultery shall be flogged or stoned," that is an
  ordinance which we will not lay upon ourselves. Begone
  elsewhere!'... And they came to Jadála, Jawhar's own tribe, and
  ‘Abdulláh called on them and the neighbouring tribes to fulfil the
  law, and some consented while others refused. Then, after a time,
  ‘Abdulláh said to his followers, 'Ye must fight the enemies of the
  Truth, so appoint a commander over you.' Jawhar answered, 'Thou art
  our commander,' but ‘Abdulláh declared that he was only a
  missionary, and on his advice the command was offered to Abú Bakr b.
  ‘Umar, the chief of Lamtúna, a man of great authority and influence.
  Having prevailed upon him to act as leader, ‘Abdulláh began to
  preach a holy war, and gave his adherents the name of Almoravides

[Sidenote: The Almoravide Empire (1056-1147 A.D.).]

The little community rapidly increased in numbers and power. Yúsuf b.
Táshifín, who succeeded to the command in 1069 A.D., founded the city of
Morocco, and from this centre made new conquests in every direction, so
that ere long the Almoravides ruled over the whole of North-West Africa
from Senegal to Algeria. We have already seen how Yúsuf was invited by
the ‘Abbádids to lead an army into Spain, how he defeated Alphonso VI at
Zalláqa and, returning a few years later, this time not as an ally but
as a conqueror, took possession of Granada and Seville. The rest of
Moslem Spain was subdued without much trouble: laity and clergy alike
hailed in the Berber monarch a zealous reformer of the Faith and a
mighty bulwark against its Christian enemies. The hopeful prospect was
not realised. Spanish civilisation enervated the Berbers, but did not
refine them. Under the narrow bigotry of Yúsuf and his successors free
thought became impossible, culture and science faded away. Meanwhile the
country was afflicted by famine, brigandage, and all the disorders of a
feeble and corrupt administration.

[Sidenote: Ibn Túmart.]

The empire of the Almoravides passed into the hands of another African
dynasty, the Almohades.[796] Their founder, Muḥammad Ibn Túmart, was
a native of the mountainous district of Sús which lies to the south-west
of Morocco. When a youth he made the Pilgrimage to Mecca (about 1108
A.D.), and also visited Baghdád, where he studied in the Niẓámiyya
College and is said to have met the celebrated Ghazálí. He returned home
with his head full of theology and ambitious schemes. We need not dwell
upon his career from this point until he finally proclaimed himself as
the Mahdí (1121 A.D.), nor describe the familiar methods--some of them
disreputable enough--by which he induced the Berbers to believe in him.
His doctrines, however, may be briefly stated. "In most questions," says
one of his biographers,[797] "he followed the system of Abu ’l-Ḥasan
al-Ash‘arí, but he agreed with the Mu‘tazilites in their denial of the
Divine Attributes and in a few matters besides; and he was at heart
somewhat inclined to Shí‘ism, although he gave it no countenance in
public."[798] The gist of his teaching is indicated by the name
_Muwaḥḥid_ (Unitarian), which he bestowed on himself, and which
his successors adopted as their dynastic title.[799] Ibn Túmart
emphasised the Unity of God; in other words, he denounced the
anthropomorphic ideas which prevailed in Western Islam and strove to
replace them by a purely spiritual conception of the Deity. To this main
doctrine he added a second, that of the Infallible Imám (_al-Imám
al-Ma‘ṣúm_), and he naturally asserted that the Imám was Muḥammad
Ibn Túmart, a descendant of ‘Alí b. Abí Ṭálib.

[Sidenote: The Almohades (1130-1269 A.D.).]

On the death of the Mahdí (1130 A.D.) the supreme command devolved upon
his trusted lieutenant, ‘Abdu ’l-Mu’min, who carried on the holy war
against the Almoravides with growing success, until in 1158 A.D. he
"united the whole coast from the frontier of Egypt to the Atlantic,
together with Moorish Spain, under his sceptre."[800] The new dynasty
was far more enlightened and favourable to culture than the Almoravides
had been. Yúsuf, the son of ‘Abdu ’l-Mu’min, is described as an
excellent scholar, whose mind was stored with the battles and traditions
and history of the Arabs before and after Islam. But he found his
highest pleasure in the study and patronage of philosophy. The great
Aristotelian, Ibn Ṭufayl, was his Vizier and court physician; and Ibn
Rushd (Averroes) received flattering honours both from him and from his
successor, Ya‘qúb al-Manṣúr, who loved to converse with the
philosopher on scientific topics, although in a fit of orthodoxy he
banished him for a time.[801] This curious mixture of liberality and
intolerance is characteristic of the Almohades. However they might
encourage speculation in its proper place, their law and theology were
cut according to the plain Ẓáhirite pattern. "The Koran and the
Traditions of the Prophet--or else the sword!" is a saying of the
last-mentioned sovereign, who also revived the autos-da-fé, which had
been prohibited by his grandfather, of Málikite and other obnoxious
books.[802] The spirit of the Almohades is admirably reflected in Ibn
Ṭufayl's famous philosophical romance, named after its hero, _Ḥayy
ibn Yaqẓán_, _i.e._, 'Alive, son of Awake,'[803] of which the
following summary is given by Mr. Duncan B. Macdonald in his excellent
_Muslim Theology_ (p. 253):--

  [Sidenote: The story of Ḥayy b. Yaqẓán.]

  "In it he conceives two islands, the one inhabited and the other
  not. On the inhabited island we have conventional people living
  conventional lives, and restrained by a conventional religion of
  rewards and punishments. Two men there, Salámán and Asál,[804] have
  raised themselves to a higher level of self-rule. Salámán adapts
  himself externally to the popular religion and rules the people;
  Asál, seeking to perfect himself still further in solitude, goes to
  the other island. But there he finds a man, Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓán,
  who has lived alone from infancy and has gradually, by the innate
  and uncorrupted powers of the mind, developed himself to the highest
  philosophic level and reached the Vision of the Divine. He has
  passed through all the stages of knowledge until the universe lies
  clear before him, and now he finds that his philosophy thus reached,
  without prophet or revelation, and the purified religion of Asál are
  one and the same. The story told by Asál of the people of the other
  island sitting in darkness stirs his soul, and he goes forth to them
  as a missionary. But he soon learns that the method of Muḥammad
  was the true one for the great masses, and that only by sensuous
  allegory and concrete things could they be reached and held. He
  retires to his island again to live the solitary life."

[Sidenote: Literature under the Almoravides and Almohades (1100-1250

Of the writers who flourished under the Berber dynasties few are
sufficiently important to deserve mention in a work of this kind. The
philosophers, however, stand in a class by themselves. Ibn Bájja
(Avempace), Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Ṭufayl, and Músá b. Maymún
(Maimonides) made their influence felt far beyond the borders of Spain:
they belong, in a sense, to Europe. We have noticed elsewhere the great
mystic, Muḥyi ’l-Dín Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí († 1240 A.D.); his
fellow-townsman, Ibn Sab‘ín († 1269 A.D.), a thinker of the same type,
wrote letters on philosophical subjects to Frederick II of Hohenstaufen.
Valuable works on the literary history of Spain were composed by Ibn
Kháqán († 1134 A.D.), Ibn Bassám († 1147 A.D.), and Ibn Bashkuwál (†
1183 A.D.). The geographer Idrísí († 1154 A.D.) was born at Ceuta,
studied at Cordova, and found a patron in the Sicilian monarch, Roger
II; Ibn Jubayr published an interesting account of his pilgrimage from
Granada to Mecca and of his journey back to Granada during the years
1183-1185 A.D.; Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar), who became a Vizier under the
Almoravides, was the first of a whole family of eminent physicians; and
Ibnu ’l-Bayṭár of Malaga († 1248 A.D.), after visiting Egypt, Greece,
and Asia Minor in order to extend his knowledge of botany, compiled a
Materia Medica, which he dedicated to the Sultan of Egypt, Malik

[Sidenote: Reconquest of Spain by Ferdinand III.]

[Sidenote: The Naṣrids of Granada (1232-1492 A.D.).]

We have now taken a rapid survey of the Moslem empire in Spain from its
rise in the eighth century of our era down to the last days of the
Almohades, which saw the Christian arms everywhere triumphant. By 1230
A.D. the Almohades had been driven out of the peninsula, although they
continued to rule Africa for about forty years after this date. Amidst
the general wreck one spot remained where the Moors could find shelter.
This was Granada. Here, in 1232 A.D., Muḥammad Ibnu ’l-Aḥmar
assumed the proud title of 'Conqueror by Grace of God' (_Ghálib billáh_)
and founded the Naṣrid dynasty, which held the Christians at bay
during two centuries and a half. That the little Moslem kingdom survived
so long was not due to its own strength, but rather to its almost
impregnable situation and to the dissensions of the victors. The latest
bloom of Arabic culture in Europe renewed, if it did not equal, the
glorious memories of Cordova and Seville. In this period arose the
world-renowned Alhambra, _i.e._, 'the Red Palace' (al-Ḥamrá) of the
Naṣrid kings, and many other superb monuments of which the ruins are
still visible. We must not, however, be led away into a digression even
upon such a fascinating subject as Moorish architecture. Our information
concerning literary matters is scantier than it might have been, on
account of the vandalism practised by the Christians when they took
Granada. It is no dubious legend (like the reputed burning of the
Alexandrian Library by order of the Caliph ‘Umar),[805] but a
well-ascertained fact that the ruthless Archbishop Ximenez made a
bonfire of all the Arabic manuscripts on which he could lay his hands.
He wished to annihilate the record of seven centuries of Muḥammadan
culture in a single day.

The names of Ibnu ’l-Khaṭíb and Ibn Khaldún represent the highest
literary accomplishment and historical comprehension of which this age
was capable. The latter, indeed, has no parallel among Oriental

[Sidenote: Ibnu ’l-Khaṭíb (1313-1374 A.D.).]

Lisánu ’l-Dín Ibnu ’l-Khaṭíb[806] played a great figure in the
politics of his time, and his career affords a conspicuous example of
the intimate way in which Moslem poetry and literature are connected
with public life. "The Arabs did not share the opinion widely spread
nowadays, that poetical talent flourishes best in seclusion from the
tumult of the world, or that it dims the clearness of vision which is
required for the conduct of public affairs. On the contrary, their
princes entrusted the chief offices of State to poets, and poetry often
served as a means to obtain more brilliant results than diplomatic notes
could have procured."[807] A young man like Ibnu ’l-Khaṭíb, who had
mastered the entire field of belles-lettres, who improvised odes and
rhyming epistles with incomparable elegance and facility, was marked out
to be the favourite of kings. He became Vizier at the Naṣrid court, a
position which he held, with one brief interval of disgrace, until 1371
A.D., when the intrigues of his enemies forced him to flee from Granada.
He sought refuge at Fez, and was honourably received by the reigning
Sultan, ‘Abdu ’l-‘Azíz; but on the accession of Abu ’l-‘Abbás in 1374
A.D. the exiled minister was incarcerated and brought to trial on the
charge of heresy (_zandaqa_). While the inquisition was proceeding a
fanatical mob broke into the gaol and murdered him. Maqqarí relates that
Ibnu ’l-Khaṭib suffered from insomnia, and that most of his works
were composed during the night, for which reason he got the nickname of
_Dhu ’l-‘Umrayn_, or 'The man of two lives.'[808] He was a prolific
writer in various branches of literature, but, like so many of his
countrymen, he excelled in History. His monographs on the sovereigns and
savants of Granada (one of which includes an autobiography) supply
interesting details concerning this obscure period.

[Sidenote: Ibn Khaldún (1332-1406 A.D.).]

Some apology may be thought necessary for placing Ibn Khaldún, the
greatest historical thinker of Islam, in the present chapter, as though
he were a Spaniard either by birth or residence. He descended, it is true,
from a family, the Banú Khaldún, which had long been settled in Spain,
first at Carmona and afterwards at Seville; but they migrated to Africa
about the middle of the thirteenth century, and Ibn Khaldún was born at
Tunis. Nearly the whole of his life, moreover, was passed in Africa--a
circumstance due rather to accident than to predilection; for in 1362
A.D. he entered the service of the Sultan of Granada, Abú ‘Abdalláh Ibnu
’l-Aḥmar, and would probably have made that city his home had not the
jealousy of his former friend, the Vizier Ibnu ’l-Khaṭíb, decided him
to leave Spain behind. We cannot give any account of the agitated and
eventful career which he ended, as Cadi of Cairo, in 1406 A.D. Ibn
Khaldún lived with statesmen and kings: he was an ambassador to the
court of Pedro of Castile, and an honoured guest of the mighty
Tamerlane. The results of his ripe experience are marvellously displayed
in the Prolegomena (_Muqaddima_), which forms the first volume of a huge
general history entitled the _Kitábu ’l-‘Ibar_ ('Book of
Examples').[809] He himself has stated his idea of the historian's
function in the following words:--

  [Sidenote: Ibn Khaldún as a philosophical historian.]

  "Know that the true purpose of history is to make us acquainted with
  human society, _i.e._, with the civilisation of the world, and with
  its natural phenomena, such as savage life, the softening of
  manners, attachment to the family and the tribe, the various kinds
  of superiority which one people gains over another, the kingdoms and
  diverse dynasties which arise in this way, the different trades and
  laborious occupations to which men devote themselves in order to
  earn their livelihood, the sciences and arts; in fine, all the
  manifold conditions which naturally occur in the development of

Ibn Khaldún argues that History, thus conceived, is subject to universal
laws, and in these laws he finds the only sure criterion of historical

  [Sidenote: His canons of historical criticism.]

  "The rule for distinguishing what is true from what is false in
  history is based on its possibility or impossibility: that is to
  say, we must examine human society (civilisation) and discriminate
  between the characteristics which are essential and inherent in its
  nature and those which are accidental and need not be taken into
  account, recognising further those which cannot possibly belong to
  it. If we do this we have a rule for separating historical truth
  from error by means of a demonstrative method that admits of no
  doubt.... It is a genuine touchstone whereby historians may verify
  whatever they relate."[811]

Here, indeed, the writer claims too much, and it must be allowed that he
occasionally applied his principles in a pedantic fashion, and was led
by purely _a priori_ considerations to conclusions which are not always
so warrantable as he believed. This is a very trifling matter in
comparison with the value and originality of the principles themselves.
Ibn Khaldún asserts, with justice, that he has discovered a new method
of writing history. No Moslem had ever taken a view at once so
comprehensive and so philosophical; none had attempted to trace the
deeply hidden causes of events, to expose the moral and spiritual forces
at work beneath the surface, or to divine the immutable laws of national
progress and decay. Ibn Khaldún owed little to his predecessors,
although he mentions some of them with respect. He stood far above his
age, and his own countrymen have admired rather than followed him. His
intellectual descendants are the great mediæval and modern historians of
Europe--Machiavelli and Vico and Gibbon.

[Sidenote: Ibn Kaldún's theory of historical evolution.]

It is worth while to sketch briefly the peculiar theory of historical
development which Ibn Khaldún puts forward in his Prolegomena--a theory
founded on the study of actual conditions and events either past or
passing before his eyes.[812] He was struck, in the first place, with
the physical fact that in almost every part of the Muḥammadan Empire
great wastes of sand or stony plateaux, arid and incapable of tillage,
wedge themselves between fertile domains of cultivated land. The former
were inhabited from time immemorial by nomad tribes, the latter by an
agricultural or industrial population; and we have seen, in the case of
Arabia, that cities like Mecca and Ḥíra carried on a lively
intercourse with the Bedouins and exerted a civilising influence upon
them. In Africa the same contrast was strongly marked. It is no wonder,
therefore, that Ibn Khaldún divided the whole of mankind into two
classes--Nomads and Citizens. The nomadic life naturally precedes and
produces the other. Its characteristics are simplicity and purity of
manners, warlike spirit, and, above all, a loyal devotion to the
interests of the family and the tribe. As the nomads become more
civilised they settle down, form states, and make conquests. They have
now reached their highest development. Corrupted by luxury, and losing
the virtues which raised them to power, they are soon swept away by a
ruder people. Such, in bare outline, is the course of history as Ibn
Khaldún regards it; but we must try to give our readers some further
account of the philosophical ideas underlying his conception. He
discerns, in the life of tribes and nations alike, two dominant forces
which mould their destiny. The primitive and cardinal force he calls
_‘aṣabiyya_, the _binding_ element in society, the feeling which
unites members of the same family, tribe, nation, or empire, and which
in its widest acceptation is equivalent to the modern term, Patriotism.
It springs up and especially flourishes among nomad peoples, where the
instinct of self-preservation awakens a keen sense of kinship and drives
men to make common cause with each other. This _‘aṣabiyya_ is the
vital energy of States: by it they rise and grow; as it weakens they
decline; and its decay is the signal for their fall. The second of the
forces referred to is Religion. Ibn Khaldún hardly ascribes to religion
so much influence as we might have expected from a Moslem. He
recognises, however, that it may be the only means of producing that
solidarity without which no State can exist. Thus in the twenty-seventh
chapter of his _Muqaddima_ he lays down the proposition that "the Arabs
are incapable of founding an empire unless they are imbued with
religious enthusiasm by a prophet or a saint."

In History he sees an endless cycle of progress and retrogression,
analogous to the phenomena of human life. Kingdoms are born, attain
maturity, and die within a definite period which rarely exceeds three
generations, _i.e._, 120 years.[813] During this time they pass through
five stages of development and decay.[814] It is noteworthy that Ibn
Khaldún admits the moral superiority of the Nomads. For him civilisation
necessarily involves corruption and degeneracy. If he did not believe in
the gradual advance of mankind towards some higher goal, his pessimism
was justified by the lessons of experience and by the mournful plight of
the Muḥammadan world, to which his view was restricted.[815]

[Sidenote: The fall of Granada (1492 A.D.).]

In 1492 A.D. the last stronghold of the European Arabs opened its gates
to Ferdinand and Isabella, and "the Cross supplanted the Crescent on the
towers of Granada." The victors showed a barbarous fanaticism that was
the more abominable as it violated their solemn pledges to respect the
religion and property of the Moslems, and as it utterly reversed the
tolerant and liberal treatment which the Christians of Spain had enjoyed
under Muḥammadan rule. Compelled to choose between apostasy and exile,
many preferred the latter alternative. Those who remained were subjected
to a terrible persecution, until in 1609 A.D., by order of Philip III,
the Moors were banished _en masse_ from Spanish soil.

[Sidenote: The Arabs in Sicily.]

Spain was not the sole point whence Moslem culture spread itself over
the Christian lands. Sicily was conquered by the Aghlabids of Tunis
early in the ninth century, and although the island fell into the hands
of the Normans in 1071 A.D., the court of Palermo retained a
semi-Oriental character. Here in the reign of Frederick II of
Hohenstaufen (1194-1250 A.D.) might be seen "astrologers from Baghdád
with long beards and waving robes, Jews who received princely salaries
as translators of Arabic works, Saracen dancers and dancing-girls, and
Moors who blew silver trumpets on festal occasions."[816] Both Frederick
himself and his son Manfred were enthusiastic Arabophiles, and
scandalised Christendom by their assumption of 'heathen' manners as well
as by the attention which they devoted to Moslem philosophy and science.
Under their auspices Arabic learning was communicated to the
neighbouring towns of Lower Italy.



[Sidenote: General characteristics of the period.]

Before proceeding to speak of the terrible catastrophe which filled the
whole of Western Asia with ruin and desolation, I may offer a few
preliminary remarks concerning the general character of the period which
we shall briefly survey in this final chapter. It forms, one must admit,
a melancholy conclusion to a glorious history. The Caliphate, which
symbolised the supremacy of the Prophet's people, is swept away.
Mongols, Turks, Persians, all in turn build up great Muḥammadan
empires, but the Arabs have lost even the shadow of a leading part and
appear only as subordinate actors on a provincial stage. The chief
centres of Arabian life, such as it is, are henceforth Syria and Egypt,
which were held by the Turkish Mamelukes until 1517 A.D., when they
passed under Ottoman rule. In North Africa the petty Berber dynasties
(Ḥafṣids, Ziyánids, and Marínids) gave place in the sixteenth
century to the Ottoman Turks. Only in Spain, where the Naṣrids of
Granada survived until 1492 A.D., in Morocco, where the Sharífs
(descendants of ‘Alí b. Abí Ṭálib) assumed the sovereignty in 1544
A.D., and to some extent in Arabia itself, did the Arabs preserve their
political independence. In such circumstances it would be vain to look
for any large developments of literature and culture worthy to rank with
those of the past. This is an age of imitation and compilation. Learned
men abound, whose erudition embraces every subject under the sun. The
mass of writing shows no visible diminution, and much of it is valuable
and meritorious work. But with one or two conspicuous exceptions--_e.g._
the historian Ibn Khaldún and the mystic Sha‘rání--we cannot point to
any new departure, any fruitful ideas, any trace of original and
illuminating thought. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries "witnessed
the rise and triumph of that wonderful movement known as the
Renaissance,... but no ripple of this great upheaval, which changed the
whole current of intellectual and moral life in the West, reached the
shores of Islam."[817] Until comparatively recent times, when Egypt and
Syria first became open to European civilisation, the Arab retained his
mediæval outlook and habit of mind, and was in no respect more
enlightened than his forefathers who lived under the ‘Abbásid Caliphate.
And since the Mongol Invasion I am afraid we must say that instead of
advancing farther along the old path he was being forced back by the
inevitable pressure of events. East of the Euphrates the Mongols did
their work of destruction so thoroughly that no seeds were left from
which a flourishing civilisation could arise; and, moreover, the Arabic
language was rapidly extinguished by the Persian. In Spain, as we have
seen, the power of the Arabs had already begun to decline; Africa was
dominated by the Berbers, a rude, unlettered race, Egypt and Syria by
the blighting military despotism of the Turks. Nowhere in the history of
this period can we discern either of the two elements which are most
productive of literary greatness: the quickening influence of a higher
culture or the inspiration of a free and vigorous national life.[818]

[Sidenote: The Mongol Invasion.]

Between the middle of the eleventh century and the end of the fourteenth
the nomad tribes dwelling beyond the Oxus burst over Western Asia in
three successive waves. First came the Seljúq Turks, then the Mongols
under Chingíz Khan and Húlágú, then the hordes, mainly Turkish, of
Tímúr. Regarding the Seljúqs all that is necessary for our purpose has
been said in a former chapter. The conquests of Tímúr are a frightful
episode which I may be pardoned for omitting from this history, inasmuch
as their permanent results (apart from the enormous damage which they
inflicted) were inconsiderable; and although the Indian empire of the
Great Moguls, which Bábur, a descendant of Tímúr, established in the
first half of the sixteenth century, ran a prosperous and brilliant
course, its culture was borrowed almost exclusively from Persian models
and does not come within the scope of the present work. We shall,
therefore, confine our view to the second wave of the vast Asiatic
migration, which bore the Mongols, led by Chingíz Khan and Húlágú, from
the steppes of China and Tartary to the Mediterranean.

[Sidenote: Chingíz Khan and Húlágú.]

In 1219 A.D. Chingíz Khan, having consolidated his power in the Far
East, turned his face westward and suddenly advanced into Transoxania,
which at that time formed a province of the wide dominions of the Sháhs
of Khwárizm (Khiva). The reigning monarch, ‘Alá’u ’l-Dín Muḥammad,
was unable to make an effective resistance; and notwithstanding that his
son, the gallant Jalálu ’l-Dín, carried on a desperate guerilla for
twelve years, the invaders swarmed over Khurásán and Persia, massacring
the panic-stricken inhabitants wholesale and leaving a wilderness behind
them. Hitherto Baghdád had not been seriously threatened, but on the
first day of January, 1256 A.D.--an epoch-marking date--Húlágú, the
grandson of Chingíz Khan, crossed the Oxus, with the intention of
occupying the ‘Abbásid capital. I translate the following narrative from
a manuscript in my possession of the _Ta’ríkh al-Khamís_ by Diyárbakrí
(† 1574 A.D.):--

  [Sidenote: Húlágú before Baghdád (1258 A.D.).]

  [Sidenote: Sack of Baghdád.]

  In the year 654 (A.H. = 1256 A.D.) the stubborn tyrant, Húlágú, the
  destroyer of the nations (_Mubídu ’l-Umam_), set forth and took the
  castle of Alamút from the Ismá‘ílís[819] and slew them and laid
  waste the lands of Rayy.... And in the year 655 there broke out at
  Baghdád a fearful riot between the Sunnís and the Shí‘ites, which
  led to great plunder and destruction of property. A number of
  Shí‘ites were killed, and this so incensed and infuriated the Vizier
  Ibnu ’l-‘Alqami that he encouraged the Tartars to invade ‘Iráq, by
  which means he hoped to take ample vengeance on the Sunnís.[820] And
  in the beginning of the year 656 the tyrant Húlágú b. Túlí b.
  Chingíz Khán, the Moghul, arrived at Baghdád with his army,
  including the Georgians (_al-Kurj_) and the troops of Mosul. The
  Dawídár[821] marched out of the city and met Húlágú's vanguard,
  which was commanded by Bájú.[822] The Moslems, being few, suffered
  defeat; whereupon Bájú advanced and pitched his camp to the west of
  Baghdád, while Húlágú took up a position on the eastern side. Then
  the Vizier Ibnu ’l-‘Alqamí said to the Caliph Musta‘ṣim Billáh: "I
  will go to the Supreme Khán to arrange peace." So the hound[823]
  went and obtained security for himself, and on his return said to
  the Caliph: "The Khán desires to marry his daughter to your son and
  to render homage to you, like the Seljúq kings, and then to depart."
  Musta‘ṣim set out, attended by the nobles of his court and the
  grandees of his time, in order to witness the contract of marriage.
  The whole party were beheaded except the Caliph, who was trampled to
  death. The Tartars entered Baghdád and distributed themselves in
  bands throughout the city. For thirty-four days the sword was never
  sheathed. Few escaped. The slain amounted to 1,800,000 and more.
  Then quarter was called.... Thus it is related in the _Duwalu
  ’l-Islám_.[824]... And on this wise did the Caliphate pass from
  Baghdád. As the poet sings:--

   "_Khalati ’l-manábiru wa-’l-asirralu minhumú
     wa-‘alayhimú hatta ’l-mamáti salámú._"

   "_The pulpits and the thrones are empty of them;
     I bid them, till the hour of death, farewell!_"

[Sidenote: Battle of ‘Ayn Jálút (September, 1260 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Arabic ceases to be the language of the whole Moslem world.]

It seemed as if all Muḥammadan Asia lay at the feet of the pagan
conqueror. Resuming his advance, Húlágú occupied Mesopotamia and sacked
Aleppo. He then returned to the East, leaving his lieutenant, Ketboghá,
to complete the reduction of Syria. Meanwhile, however, an Egyptian army
under the Mameluke Sultan Muẓaffar Quṭuz was hastening to oppose
the invaders. On Friday, the 25th of Ramaḍán, 658 A.H., a decisive
battle was fought at ‘Ayn Jálút (Goliath's Spring), west of the Jordan.
The Tartars were routed with immense slaughter, and their subsequent
attempts to wrest Syria from the Mamelukes met with no success. The
submission of Asia Minor was hardly more than nominal, but in Persia the
descendants of Húlágú, the Íl-Kháns, reigned over a great empire, which
the conversion of one of their number, Gházán (1295-1304 A.D.), restored
to Moslem rule. We are not concerned here with the further history of
the Mongols in Persia nor with that of the Persians themselves. Since
the days of Húlágú the lands east and west of the Tigris are separated
by an ever-widening gulf. The two races--Persians and Arabs--to whose
co-operation the mediæval world, from Samarcand to Seville, for a long
time owed its highest literary and scientific culture, have now finally
dissolved their partnership. It is true that the cleavage began many
centuries earlier, and before the fall of Baghdád the Persian genius had
already expressed itself in a splendid national literature. But from
this date onward the use of Arabic by Persians is practically limited to
theological and philosophical writings. The Persian language has driven
its rival out of the field. Accordingly Egypt and Syria will now demand
the principal share of our attention, more especially as the history of
the Arabs of Granada, which properly belongs to this period, has been
related in the preceding chapter.

[Sidenote: The Mamelukes of Egypt (1250-1517 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: Sultan Baybars (1260-1277 A.D.).]

[Sidenote: The ‘Abbásid Caliphs of Egypt.]

The dynasty of the Mameluke[825] Sultans of Egypt was founded in 1250
A.D. by Aybak, a Turkish slave, who commenced his career in the service
of the Ayyúbid, Malik Ṣáliḥ Najmu ’l-Dín. His successors[826] held
sway in Egypt and Syria until the conquest of these countries by the
Ottomans. The Mamelukes were rough soldiers, who seldom indulged in any
useless refinement, but they had a royal taste for architecture, as the
visitor to Cairo may still see. Their administration, though disturbed
by frequent mutinies and murders, was tolerably prosperous on the whole,
and their victories over the Mongol hosts, as well as the crushing blows
which they dealt to the Crusaders, gave Islam new prestige. The ablest
of them all was Baybars, who richly deserved his title Malik
al-Ẓáhir, _i.e._, the Victorious King. His name has passed into the
legends of the people, and his warlike exploits into romances written in
the vulgar dialect which are recited by story-tellers to this day.[827]
The violent and brutal acts which he sometimes committed--for he shrank
from no crime when he suspected danger--made him a terror to the
ambitious nobles around him, but did not harm his reputation as a just
ruler. Although he held the throne in virtue of having murdered the late
monarch with his own hand, he sought to give the appearance of
legitimacy to his usurpation. He therefore recognised as Caliph a
certain Abu ’l-Qásim Aḥmad, a pretended scion of the ‘Abbásid house,
invited him to Cairo, and took the oath of allegiance to him in due
form. The Caliph on his part invested the Sultan with sovereignty over
Egypt, Syria, Arabia, and all the provinces that he might obtain by
future conquests. This Aḥmad, entitled al-Mustanṣir, was the first
of a long series of mock Caliphs who were appointed by the Mameluke
Sultans and generally kept under close surveillance in the citadel of
Cairo. There is no authority for the statement, originally made by
Mouradgea d'Ohsson in 1787 and often repeated since, that the last of
the line bequeathed his rights of succession to the Ottoman Sultan Selím
I, thus enabling the Sultans of Turkey to claim the title and dignity of

[Sidenote: Arabic poetry after the Mongol Invasion.]

[Sidenote: Ṣafiyyu ’l-Dín al-Ḥillí.]

The poets of this period are almost unknown in Europe, and until they
have been studied with due attention it would be premature to assert
that none of them rises above mediocrity. At the same time my own
impression (based, I confess, on a very desultory and imperfect
acquaintance with their work) is that the best among them are merely
elegant and accomplished artists, playing brilliantly with words and
phrases, but doing little else. No doubt extreme artificiality may
coexist with poetical genius of a high order, provided that it has
behind it Mutanabbí's power, Ma‘arrí's earnestness, or Ibnu
’l-Fáriḍ's enthusiasm. In the absence of these qualities we must be
content to admire the technical skill with which the old tunes are
varied and revived. Let us take, for example, Ṣafiyyu ’l-Dín
al-Ḥillí, who was born at Ḥilla, a large town on the Euphrates, in
1278 A.D., became laureate of the Urtuqid dynasty at Máridín, and died
in Baghdád about 1350. He is described as "the poet of his age
absolutely," and to judge from the extracts in Kutubí's _Fawátu
’l-Wafayát_[829] he combined subtlety of fancy with remarkable ease and
sweetness of versification. Many of his pieces, however, are _jeux
d'esprit_, like his ode to the Prophet, in which he employs 151
rhetorical figures, or like another poem where all the nouns are
diminutives.[830] The following specimen of his work is too brief to do
him justice:--

 "How can I have patience, and thou, mine eye's delight,
  All the livelong year not one moment in my sight?
  And with what can I rejoice my heart, when thou that art a joy
  Unto every human heart, from me hast taken flight?
  I swear by Him who made thy form the envy of the sun
  (So graciously He clad thee with lovely beams of light):
  The day when I behold thy beauty doth appear to me
  As tho' it gleamed on Time's dull brow a constellation bright.
  O thou scorner of my passion, for whose sake I count as naught
  All the woe that I endure, all the injury and despite,
  Come, regard the ways of God! for never He at life's last gasp
  Suffereth the weight to perish even of one mite!"[831]

[Sidenote: Popular poetry.]

We have already referred to the folk-songs (_muwashshaḥ_ and _zajal_)
which originated in Spain. These simple ballads, with their novel metres
and incorrect language, were despised by the classical school, that is
to say, by nearly all Moslems with any pretensions to learning; but
their popularity was such that even the court poets occasionally
condescended to write in this style. To the _zajal_ and _muwashshaḥ_
we may add the _dúbayt_, the _mawáliyyá_, the _kánwakán_, and the
_ḥimáq_, which together with verse of the regular form made up the
'seven kinds of poetry' (_al-funún al-sab‘a_). Ṣafiyyu ’l-Dín
al-Ḥillí, who wrote a special treatise on the Arabic folk-songs,
mentions two other varieties which, he says, were invented by the people
of Baghdád to be sung in the early dawn of Ramaḍán, the Moslem
Lent.[832] It is interesting to observe that some few literary men
attempted, though in a timid fashion, to free Arabic poetry from the
benumbing academic system by which it was governed and to pour fresh
life into its veins. A notable example of this tendency is the _Hazzu
’l-Quḥúf_[833] by Shirbíní, who wrote in 1687 A.D. Here we have a
poem in the vulgar dialect of Egypt, but what is still more curious, the
author, while satirising the uncouth manners and rude language of the
peasantry, makes a bitter attack on the learning and morals of the
Muḥammadan divines.[834] For this purpose he introduces a typical
Fellah named Abú Shádúf, whose rôle corresponds to that of Piers the
Plowman in Longland's _Vision_. Down to the end of the nineteenth
century, at any rate, such isolated offshoots had not gone far to found
a living school of popular poetry. Only the future can show whether the
Arabs are capable of producing a genius who will succeed in doing for
the national folk-songs what Burns did for the Scots ballads.

[Sidenote: Ibn Khallikán (1211-1282 A.D.).]

Biography and History were cultivated with ardour by the savants of
Egypt and Syria. Among the numerous compositions of this kind we can
have no hesitation in awarding the place of honour to the _Wafayátu
’l-A‘yán_, or 'Obituaries of Eminent Men,' by Shamsu ’l-Dín Ibn
Khallikán, a work which has often been quoted in the foregoing pages.
The author belonged to a distinguished family descending from Yaḥyá
b. Khálid the Barmecide (see p. 259 seq.), and was born at Arbela in
1211 A.D. He received his education at Aleppo and Damascus (1229-1238)
and then proceeded to Cairo, where he finished the first draft of his
Biographical Dictionary in 1256. Five years later he was appointed by
Sultan Baybars to be Chief Cadi of Syria. He retained this high office
(with a seven years' interval, which he devoted to literary and
biographical studies) until a short time before his death. In the
Preface to the _Wafayát_ Ibn Khallikán observes that he has adopted the
alphabetical order as more convenient than the chronological. As regards
the scope and character of his Dictionary, he says:--

  [Sidenote: His Biographical Dictionary.]

  "I have not limited my work to the history of any one particular
  class of persons, as learned men, princes, emirs, viziers, or poets;
  but I have spoken of all those whose names are familiar to the
  public, and about whom questions are frequently asked; I have,
  however, related the facts I could ascertain respecting them in a
  concise manner, lest my work should become too voluminous; I have
  fixed with all possible exactness the dates of their birth and
  death; I have traced up their genealogy as high as I could; I have
  marked the orthography of those names which are liable to be written
  incorrectly; and I have cited the traits which may best serve to
  characterise each individual, such as noble actions, singular
  anecdotes, verses and letters, so that the reader may derive
  amusement from my work, and find it not exclusively of such a
  uniform cast as would prove tiresome; for the most effectual
  inducement to reading a book arises from the variety of its

Ibn Khallikan might have added that he was the first Muḥammadan
writer to design a Dictionary of National Biography, since none of his
predecessors had thought of comprehending the lives of eminent Moslems
of every class in a single work.[836] The merits of the book have been
fully recognised by the author's countrymen as well as by European
scholars. It is composed in simple and elegant language, it is extremely
accurate, and it contains an astonishing quantity of miscellaneous
historical and literary information, not drily catalogued but conveyed
in the most pleasing fashion by anecdotes and excerpts which illustrate
every department of Moslem life. I am inclined to agree with the opinion
of Sir William Jones, that it is the best general biography ever
written; and allowing for the difference of scale and scope, I think it
will bear comparison with a celebrated English work which it resembles
in many ways--I mean Boswell's _Johnson_.[837]

[Sidenote: Historians of the Mameluke period.]

[Sidenote: Maqrízí.]

To give an adequate account of the numerous and talented historians of
the Mameluke period would require far more space than they can
reasonably claim in a review of this kind. Concerning Ibn Khaldún, who
held a professorship as well as the office of Cadi in Cairo under Sultan
Barqúq (1382-1398 A.D.), we have already spoken at some length. This
extraordinary genius discovered principles and methods which might have
been expected to revolutionise historical science, but neither was he
himself capable of carrying them into effect nor, as the event proved,
did they inspire his successors to abandon the path of tradition. I
cannot imagine any more decisive symptom of the intellectual lethargy in
which Islam was now sunk, or any clearer example of the rule that even
the greatest writers struggle in vain against the spirit of their own
times. There were plenty of learned men, however, who compiled local and
universal histories. Considering the precious materials which their
industry has preserved for us, we should rather admire these diligent
and erudite authors than complain of their inability to break away from
the established mode. Perhaps the most famous among them is Taqiyyu
’l-Dín al-Maqrízí (1364-1442 A.D.). A native of Cairo, he devoted
himself to Egyptian history and antiquities, on which subject he
composed several standard works, such as the _Khiṭaṭ_[838] and the
_Sulúk_.[839] Although he was both unconscientious and uncritical, too
often copying without acknowledgment or comment, and indulging in
wholesale plagiarism when it suited his purpose, these faults which are
characteristic of his age may easily be excused. "He has accumulated and
reduced to a certain amount of order a large quantity of information
that would but for him have passed into oblivion. He is generally
painstaking and accurate, and always resorts to contemporary evidence if
it is available. Also he has a pleasant and lucid style, and writes
without bias and apparently with distinguished impartiality."[840] Other
well-known works belonging to this epoch are the _Fakhrí_ of Ibnu
’l-Ṭiqṭaqá, a delightful manual of Muḥammadan politics[841]
which was written at Mosul in 1302 A.D.; the epitome of universal
history by Abu ’l-Fidá, Prince of Ḥamát († 1331); the voluminous
Chronicle of Islam by Dhahabí († 1348); the high-flown Biography of
Tímúr entitled _‘Ajá’ibu ’l-Maqdúr_, or 'Marvels of Destiny,' by Ibn
‘Arabsháh († 1450); and the _Nujúm al-Záhira_ ('Resplendent Stars') by
Abu ’l-Maḥásin b. Taghríbirdí († 1469), which contains the annals of
Egypt under the Moslems. The political and literary history of
Muḥammadan Spain by Maqqarí of Tilimsán († 1632) was mentioned in the
last chapter.[842]

[Sidenote: Jalálu ’l-Dín al-Suyúṭí (1445-1505 A.D.).]

If we were asked to select a single figure who should exhibit as
completely as possible in his own person the literary tendencies of the
Alexandrian age of Arabic civilisation, our choice would assuredly fall
on Jalálu ’l-Dín al-Suyúṭí, who was born at Suyúṭ (Usyúṭ) in
Upper Egypt in 1445 A.D. His family came originally from Persia, but,
like Dhahabí, Ibn Taghríbirdí, and many celebrated writers of this time,
he had, through his mother, an admixture of Turkish blood. At the age of
five years and seven months, when his father died, the precocious boy
had already reached the _Súratu ’l-Taḥrím_ (Súra of Forbidding),
which is the sixty-sixth chapter of the Koran, and he knew the whole
volume by heart before he was eight years old. He prosecuted his studies
under the most renowned masters in every branch of Moslem learning, and
on finishing his education held one Professorship after another at Cairo
until 1501, when he was deprived of his post in consequence of
malversation of the bursary monies in his charge. He died four years
later in the islet of Rawḍa on the Nile, whither he had retired under
the pretence of devoting the rest of his life to God. We possess the
titles of more than five hundred separate works which he composed. This
number would be incredible but for the fact that many of them are brief
pamphlets displaying the author's curious erudition on all sorts of
abstruse subjects--_e.g._, whether the Prophet wore trousers, whether
his turban had a point, and whether his parents are in Hell or Paradise.
Suyúṭí's indefatigable pen travelled over an immense field of
knowledge--Koran, Tradition, Law, Philosophy and History, Philology and
Rhetoric. Like some of the old Alexandrian scholars, he seems to have
taken pride in a reputation for polygraphy, and his enemies declared
that he made free with other men's books, which he used to alter
slightly and then give out as his own. Suyúṭí, on his part, laid
before the Shaykhu ’l-Islám a formal accusation of plagiarism against
Qasṭallání, an eminent contemporary divine. We are told that his
vanity and arrogance involved him in frequent quarrels, and that he was
'cut' by his learned brethren. Be this as it may, he saw what the public
wanted. His compendious and readable handbooks were famed throughout the
Moslem world, as he himself boasts, from India to Morocco, and did much
to popularise the scientific culture of the day. It will be enough to
mention here the _Itqán_ on Koranic exegesis; the _Tafsíru ’l-Jalálayn_,
or 'Commentary on the Koran by the two Jaláls,' which was begun by
Jalálu ’l-Dín al-Maḥallí and finished by his namesake, Suyúṭí; the
_Muzhir_ (_Mizhar_), a treatise on philology; the _Ḥusnu
’l-Muḥáḍara_, a history of Old and New Cairo; and the _Ta’ríkhu
’l-Khulafá_, or 'History of the Caliphs.'

[Sidenote: Other scholars of the period.]

To dwell longer on the literature of this period would only be to
emphasise its scholastic and unoriginal character. A passing mention,
however, is due to the encyclopædists Nuwayrí († 1332), author of the
_Niháyatu ’l-Arab_, and Ibnu ’l-Wardí († 1349). Ṣafadí († 1363)
compiled a gigantic biographical dictionary, the _Wáfí bi ’l-Wafayát_,
in twenty-six volumes, and the learned traditionist, Ibn Ḥajar of
Ascalon († 1449), has left a large number of writings, among which it
will be sufficient to name the _Iṣába fí tamyíz al-Ṣaḥába_, or
Lives of the Companions of the Prophet.[843] We shall conclude this part
of our subject by enumerating a few celebrated works which may be
described in modern terms as standard text-books for the Schools and
Universities of Islam. Amidst the host of manuals of Theology and
Jurisprudence, with their endless array of abridgments, commentaries,
and supercommentaries, possibly the best known to European students are
those by Abu ’l-Barakát al-Nasafí († 1310), ‘Aḍudu ’l-Dín al-Íjí (†
1355), Sídí Khalíl al-Jundí († 1365), Taftázání († 1389), Sharíf
al-Jurjání († 1413), and Muḥammad b. Yúsuf al-Sanúsí († 1486). For
Philology and Lexicography we have the _Alfiyya_, a versified grammar by
Ibn Málik of Jaen († 1273); the _Ájurrúmiyya_ on the rudiments of
grammar, an exceedingly popular compendium by Ṣanhájí († 1323); and
two famous Arabic dictionaries, the _Lisánu ’l-‘Arab_ by Jamálu ’l-Dín
Ibn Mukarram († 1311), and the _Qámús_ by Fírúzábádí († 1414). Nor,
although he was a Turk, should we leave unnoticed the great
bibliographer Ḥájjí Khalífa († 1658), whose _Kashfu ’l-Ẓunún_
contains the titles, arranged alphabetically, of all the Arabic,
Persian, and Turkish books of which the existence was known to him.

[Sidenote: The 'Thousand and One Nights.']

The Mameluke period gave final shape to the _Alf Layla wa-Layla_, or
'Thousand and One Nights,' a work which is far more popular in Europe
than the Koran or any other masterpiece of Arabic literature. The modern
title, 'Arabian Nights,' tells only a part of the truth. Mas‘údí († 956
A.D.) mentions an old Persian book, the _Hazár Afsána_ ('Thousand
Tales') which "is generally called the Thousand and One Nights; it is
the story of the King and his Vizier, and of the Vizier's daughter and
her slave-girl: Shírázád and Dínázád."[844] The author of the _Fihrist_,
writing in 988 A.D., begins his chapter "concerning the Story-Tellers
and the Fabulists and the names of the books which they composed" with
the following passage (p. 304):--

  [Sidenote: Persian origin of the 'Thousand and One Nights.']

  [Sidenote: The _Hazár Afsán_.]

  "The first who composed fables and made books of them and put them
  by in treasuries and sometimes introduced animals as speaking them
  were the Ancient Persians. Afterwards the Parthian kings, who form
  the third dynasty of the kings of Persia, showed the utmost zeal in
  this matter. Then in the days of the Sásánian kings such books
  became numerous and abundant, and the Arabs translated them into the
  Arabic tongue, and they soon reached the hands of philologists and
  rhetoricians, who corrected and embellished them and composed other
  books in the same style. Now the first book ever made on this
  subject was the Book of the Thousand Tales (_Hazár Afsán_), on the
  following occasion: A certain king of Persia used to marry a woman
  for one night and kill her the next morning. And he wedded a wise
  and clever princess, called Shahrázád, who began to tell him stories
  and brought the tale at daybreak to a point that induced the king to
  spare her life and ask her on the second night to finish her tale.
  So she continued until a thousand nights had passed, and she was
  blessed with a son by him.... And the king had a stewardess
  (_qahramána_) named Dínárzád, who was in league with the queen. It
  is also said that this book was composed for Ḥumání, the daughter
  of Bahman, and there are various traditions concerning it. The
  truth, if God will, is that Alexander (the Great) was the first who
  heard stories by night, and he had people to make him laugh and
  divert him with tales; although he did not seek amusement therein,
  but only to store and preserve them (in his memory). The kings who
  came after him used the 'Thousand Tales' (_Hazár Afsán_) for this
  purpose. It covers a space of one thousand nights, but contains less
  than two hundred stories, because the telling of a single story
  often takes several nights. I have seen the complete work more than
  once, and it is indeed a vulgar, insipid book (_kitábun ghaththun
  báridu ’l-hadíth_).[845]

  Abu ‘Abdalláh Muḥammad b. ‘Abdús al-Jahshiyárí († 942-943 A.D.),
  the author of the 'Book of Viziers,' began to compile a book in
  which he selected one thousand stories of the Arabs, the Persians,
  the Greeks, and other peoples, every piece being independent and
  unconnected with the rest. He gathered the story-tellers round him
  and took from them the best of what they knew and were able to tell,
  and he chose out of the fable and story-books whatever pleased him.
  He was a skilful craftsman, so he put together from this material
  480 nights, each night an entire story of fifty pages, more or less,
  but death surprised him before he completed the thousand tales as he
  had intended."

[Sidenote: Different sources of the collection.]

Evidently, then, the _Hazár Afsán_ was the kernel of the 'Arabian
Nights,' and it is probable that this Persian archetype included the
most finely imaginative tales in the existing collection, _e.g._, the
'Fisherman and the Genie,' 'Camaralzamán and Budúr,' and the 'Enchanted
Horse.' As time went on, the original stock received large additions
which may be divided into two principal groups, both Semitic in
character: the one belonging to Baghdád and consisting mainly of
humorous anecdotes and love romances in which the famous Caliph 'Haroun
Alraschid' frequently comes on the scene; the other having its centre in
Cairo, and marked by a roguish, ironical pleasantry as well as by the
mechanic supernaturalism which is perfectly illustrated in 'Aladdin and
the Wonderful Lamp.' But, apart from these three sources, the 'Arabian
Nights' has in the course of centuries accumulated and absorbed an
immense number of Oriental folk-tales of every description, equally
various in origin and style. The oldest translation by Galland (Paris,
1704-1717) is a charming paraphrase, which in some respects is more true
to the spirit of the original than are the scholarly renderings of Lane
and Burton.

[Sidenote: The 'Romance of ‘Antar.']

The 'Romance of ‘Antar' (_Síratu ‘Antar_) is traditionally ascribed to
the great philologist, Aṣma‘í,[846] who flourished in the reign of
Hárún al-Rashíd, but this must be considered as an invention of the
professional reciters who sit in front of Oriental cafés and entertain
the public with their lively declamations.[847] According to
Brockelmann, the work in its present form apparently dates from the time
of the Crusades.[848] Its hero is the celebrated heathen poet and
warrior, ‘Antara b. Shaddád, of whom we have already given an account as
author of one of the seven _Mu‘allaqát_. Though the Romance exhibits all
the anachronisms and exaggerations of popular legend, it does
nevertheless portray the unchanging features of Bedouin life with
admirable fidelity and picturesqueness. Von Hammer, whose notice in the
_Mines de l'Orient_ (1802) was the means of introducing the _Síratu
‘Antar_ to European readers, justly remarks that it cannot be translated
in full owing to its portentous length. It exists in two recensions
called respectively the Arabian (_Ḥijáziyya_) and the Syrian
(_Shámiyya_), the latter being very much curtailed.[849]

[Sidenote: Orthodoxy and mysticism.]

While the decadent state of Arabic literature during all these centuries
was immediately caused by unfavourable social and political conditions,
the real source of the malady lay deeper, and must, I think, be referred
to the spiritual paralysis which had long been creeping over Islam and
which manifested itself by the complete victory of the Ash‘arites or
Scholastic Theologians about 1200 A.D. Philosophy and Rationalism were
henceforth as good as dead. Two parties remained in possession of the
field--the orthodox and the mystics. The former were naturally
intolerant of anything approaching to free-thought, and in their
principle of _ijmá‘_, _i.e._, the consensus of public opinion (which was
practically controlled by themselves), they found a potent weapon
against heresy. How ruthlessly they sometimes used it we may see from
the following passage in the _Yawáqít_ of Sha‘rání. After giving
instances of the persecution to which the Ṣúfís of old--Báyazíd, Dhú
’l-Nún, and others--were subjected by their implacable enemies, the
_‘Ulamá_, he goes on to speak of what had happened more recently[850]:--

  [Sidenote: Persecution of heretics.]

  "They brought the Imám Abú Bakr al-Nábulusí, notwithstanding his
  merit and profound learning and rectitude in religion, from the
  Maghrib to Egypt and testified that he was a heretic (_zindíq_). The
  Sultan gave orders that he should be suspended by his feet and
  flayed alive. While the sentence was being carried out, he began to
  recite the Koran with such an attentive and humble demeanour that he
  moved the hearts of the people, and they were near making a riot.
  And likewise they caused Nasímí to be flayed at Aleppo.[851] When he
  silenced them by his arguments, they devised a plan for his
  destruction, thus: They wrote the _Súratu ’l-Ikhláṣ_[852] on a
  piece of paper and bribed a cobbler of shoes, saying to him, 'It
  contains only love and pleasantness, so place it inside the sole of
  the shoe.' Then they took that shoe and sent it from a far distance
  as a gift to the Shaykh (Nasímí), who put it on, for he knew not.
  His adversaries went to the governor of Aleppo and said: 'We have
  sure information that Nasímí has written, _Say, God is One_, and has
  placed the writing in the sole of his shoe. If you do not believe
  us, send for him and see!' The governor did as they wished. On the
  production of the paper, the Shaykh resigned himself to the will of
  God and made no answer to the charge, knowing well that he would be
  killed on that pretext. I was told by one who studied under his
  disciples that all the time when he was being flayed Nasímí was
  reciting _muwashshaḥs_ in praise of the Unity of God, until he
  composed five hundred verses, and that he was looking at his
  executioners and smiling. And likewise they brought Shaykh Abu
  ’l-Ḥasan al-Shádhilí[853] from the West to Egypt and bore
  witness that he was a heretic, but God delivered him from their
  plots. And they accused Shaykh ‘Izzu ’l-Dín b. ‘Abd al-Salám[854] of
  infidelity and sat in judgment over him on account of some
  expressions in his _‘Aqída_ (Articles of Faith) and urged the Sultan
  to punish him; afterwards, however, he was restored to favour. They
  denounced Shaykh Táju ’l-Dín al-Subkí[855] on the same charge,
  asserting that he held it lawful to drink wine and that he wore at
  night the badge (_ghiyár_) of the unbelievers and the zone
  (_zunnár_)[856]; and they brought him, manacled and in chains, from
  Syria to Egypt."

This picture is too highly coloured. It must be admitted for the credit
of the _‘Ulamá_, that they seldom resorted to violence. Islam was
happily spared the horrors of an organised Inquisition. On the other
hand, their authority was now so firmly established that all progress
towards moral and intellectual liberty had apparently ceased, or at any
rate only betrayed itself in spasmodic outbursts. Ṣúfiism in some
degree represented such a movement, but the mystics shared the triumph
of Scholasticism and contributed to the reaction which ensued. No longer
an oppressed minority struggling for toleration, they found themselves
side by side with reverend doctors on a platform broad enough to
accommodate all parties, and they saw their own popular heroes turned
into Saints of the orthodox Church. The compromise did not always work
smoothly--in fact, there was continual friction--but on the whole it
seems to have borne the strain wonderfully well. If pious souls were
shocked by the lawlessness of the Dervishes, and if bigots would fain
have burned the books of Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí and Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ, the
divines in general showed a disposition to suspend judgment in matters
touching holy men and to regard them as standing above human criticism.

As typical representatives of the religious life of this period we may
take two men belonging to widely opposite camps--Taqiyyu ’l-Dín Ibn
Taymiyya and ‘Abdu ’l-Wahháb al-Sha‘rání.

[Sidenote: Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328 A.D.).]

Ibn Taymiyya was born at Ḥarrán in 1263 A.D. A few years later his
father, fleeing before the Mongols, brought him to Damascus, where in
due course he received an excellent education. It is said that he never
forgot anything which he had once learned, and his knowledge of theology
and law was so extensive as almost to justify the saying, "A tradition
that Ibn Taymiyya does not recognise is no tradition." Himself a
Ḥanbalite of the deepest dye--holding, in other words, that the Koran
must be interpreted according to its letter and not by the light of
reason--he devoted his life with rare courage to the work of religious
reform. His aim, in short, was to restore the primitive monotheism
taught by the Prophet and to purge Islam of the heresies and corruptions
which threatened to destroy it. One may imagine what a hornet's nest he
was attacking. Mystics, philosophers, and scholastic theologians, all
fell alike under the lash of his denunciation. Bowing to no authority,
but drawing his arguments from the traditions and practice of the early
Church, he expressed his convictions in the most forcible terms, without
regard to consequences. Although several times thrown into prison, he
could not be muzzled for long. The climax was reached when he lifted up
his voice against the superstitions of the popular faith--saint-worship,
pilgrimage to holy shrines, vows, offerings, and invocations. These
things, which the zealous puritan condemned as sheer idolatry, were part
of a venerable cult that was hallowed by ancient custom, and had
engrafted itself in luxuriant overgrowth upon Islam. The mass of Moslems
believed, and still believe implicitly in the saints, accept their
miracles, adore their relics, visit their tombs, and pray for their
intercession. Ibn Taymiyya even declared that it was wrong to implore
the aid of the Prophet or to make a pilgrimage to his sepulchre. It was
a vain protest. He ended his days in captivity at Damascus. The vast
crowds who attended his funeral--we are told that there were present
200,000 men and 15,000 women--bore witness to the profound respect which
was universally felt for the intrepid reformer. Oddly enough, he was
buried in the Cemetery of the Ṣúfís, whose doctrines he had so
bitterly opposed, and the multitude revered his memory--as a saint! The
principles which inspired Ibn Taymiyya did not fall to the ground,
although their immediate effect was confined to a very small circle. We
shall see them reappearing victoriously in the Wahhábite movement of the
eighteenth century.

[Sidenote: Sha‘rání († 1565 A.D.).]

Notwithstanding the brilliant effort of Ghazálí to harmonise dogmatic
theology with mysticism, it soon became clear that the two parties were
in essence irreconcilable. The orthodox clergy who held fast by the
authority of the Koran and the Traditions saw a grave danger to
themselves in the esoteric revelation which the mystics claimed to
possess; while the latter, though externally conforming to the law of
Islam, looked down with contempt on the idea that true knowledge of God
could be derived from theology, or from any source except the inner
light of heavenly inspiration. Hence the antithesis of _faqíh_
(theologian) and _faqír_ (dervish), the one class forming a powerful
official hierarchy in close alliance with the Government, whereas the
Ṣúfís found their chief support among the people at large, and
especially among the poor. We need not dwell further on the natural
antagonism which has always existed between these rival corporations,
and which is a marked feature in the modern history of Islam. It will be
more instructive to spend a few moments with the last great
Muḥammadan theosophist, ‘Abdu ’l-Wahháb al-Sha‘rání, a man who, with
all his weaknesses, was an original thinker, and exerted an influence
strongly felt to this day, as is shown by the steady demand for his
books. He was born about the beginning of the sixteenth century.
Concerning his outward life we have little information beyond the facts
that he was a weaver by trade and resided in Cairo. At this time Egypt
was a province of the Ottoman Empire. Sha‘rání contrasts the miserable
lot of the peasantry under the new _régime_ with their comparative
prosperity under the Mamelukes. So terrible were the exactions of the
tax-gatherers that the fellah was forced to sell the whole produce of
his land, and sometimes even the ox which ploughed it, in order to save
himself and his family from imprisonment; and every lucrative business
was crushed by confiscation. It is not to be supposed, however, that
Sha‘rání gave serious attention to such sublunary matters. He lived in a
world of visions and wonderful experiences. He conversed with angels and
prophets, like his more famous predecessor, Muḥyi ’l-Dín Ibnu
’l-‘Arabí, whose _Meccan Revelations_ he studied and epitomised. His
autobiography entitled _Laṭá’ifu ’l-Minan_ displays the hierophant in
full dress. It is a record of the singular spiritual gifts and virtues
with which he was endowed, and would rank as a masterpiece of shameless
self-laudation, did not the author repeatedly assure us that all his
extraordinary qualities are Divine blessings and are gratefully set
forth by their recipient _ad majorem Dei gloriam_. We should be treating
Sha‘rání very unfairly if we judged him by this work alone. The arrogant
miracle-monger was one of the most learned men of his day, and could
beat the scholastic theologians with their own weapons. Indeed, he
regarded theology (_fiqh_) as the first step towards Ṣúfiism, and
endeavoured to show that in reality they are different aspects of the
same science. He also sought to harmonise the four great schools of law,
whose disagreement was consecrated by the well-known saying ascribed to
the Prophet: "The variance of my people is an act of Divine mercy"
(_ikhtiláfu ummatí raḥmatun_). Like the Arabian Ṣúfís generally,
Sha‘rání kept his mysticism within narrow bounds, and declared himself
an adherent of the moderate section which follows Junayd of Baghdád (†
909-910 A.D.). For all his extravagant pretensions and childish belief
in the supernatural, he never lost touch with the Muḥammadan Church.

In the thirteenth century Ibn Taymiyya had tried to eradicate the abuses
which obscured the simple creed of Islam. He failed, but his work was
carried on by others and was crowned, after a long interval, by the
Wahhábite Reformation.[857]

[Sidenote: Muḥammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahháb and his successors.]

Muḥammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahháb,[858] from whom its name is derived, was
born about 1720 A.D. in Najd, the Highlands of Arabia. In his youth he
visited the principal cities of the East, "as is much the practice with
his countrymen even now,"[859] and what he observed in the course of his
travels convinced him that Islam was thoroughly corrupt. Fired by the
example of Ibn Taymiyya, whose writings he copied with his own
hand,[860] Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahháb determined to re-establish the pure
religion of Muḥammad in its primitive form. Accordingly he returned
home and retired with his family to Ḑira‘iyya at the time when
Muḥammad b. Sa‘úd was the chief personage of the town. This man
became his first convert and soon after married his daughter. But it was
not until the end of the eighteenth century that the Wahhábís, under
‘Abdu ’l-‘Azíz, son of Muḥammad b. Sa‘úd, gained their first great
successes. In 1801 they sacked Imám-Ḥusayn,[861] a town in the
vicinity of Baghdád, massacred five thousand persons, and destroyed the
cupola of Ḥusayn's tomb; the veneration paid by all Shí‘ites to that
shrine being, as Burckhardt says, a sufficient cause to attract the
Wahhábí fury against it. Two years later they made themselves masters of
the whole Ḥijáz, including Mecca and Medína. On the death of ‘Abdu
’l-‘Azíz, who was assassinated in the same year, his eldest son, Sa‘úd,
continued the work of conquest and brought the greater part of Arabia
under Wahhábite rule. At last, in 1811, Turkey despatched a fleet and
army to recover the Holy Cities. This task was accomplished by
Muḥammad ‘Alí, the Pasha of Egypt (1812-13), and after five years'
hard fighting the war ended in favour of the Turks, who in 1818
inflicted a severe defeat on the Wahhábís and took their capital,
Ḑira‘iyya, by storm. The sect, however, still maintains its power in
Central Arabia, and in recent times has acquired political importance.

[Sidenote: The Wahhábite Reformation.]

The Wahhábís were regarded by the Turks as infidels and authors of a new
religion. It was natural that they should appear in this light, for they
interrupted the pilgrim-caravans, demolished the domes and ornamented
tombs of the most venerable Saints (not excepting that of the Prophet
himself), and broke to pieces the Black Stone in the Ka‘ba. All this
they did not as innovators, but as reformers. They resembled the
Carmathians only in their acts. Burckhardt says very truly: "Not a
single new precept was to be found in the Wahaby code. Abd el Waháb took
as his sole guide the Koran and the Sunne (or the laws formed upon the
traditions of Mohammed); and the only difference between his sect and
the orthodox Turks, however improperly so termed, is, that the Wahabys
rigidly follow the same laws which the others neglect, or have ceased
altogether to observe."[862] "The Wahhábites," says Dozy, "attacked the
idolatrous worship of Mahomet; although he was in their eyes a Prophet
sent to declare the will of God, he was no less a man like others, and
his mortal shell, far from having mounted to heaven, rested in the tomb
at Medína. Saint-worship they combated just as strongly. They proclaimed
that all men are equal before God; that even the most virtuous and
devout cannot intercede with Him; and that, consequently, it is a sin to
invoke the Saints and to adore their relics."[863] In the same puritan
spirit they forbade the smoking of tobacco, the wearing of gaudy robes,
and praying over the rosary. "It has been stated that they likewise
prohibited the drinking of coffee; this, however, is not the fact: they
have always used it to an immoderate degree."[864]

[Sidenote: The Sanúsís in Africa.]

The Wahhábite movement has been compared with the Protestant Reformation
in Europe; but while the latter was followed by the English and French
Revolutions, the former has not yet produced any great political
results. It has borne fruit in a general religious revival throughout
the world of Islam and particularly in the mysterious Sanúsiyya
Brotherhood, whose influence is supreme in Tripoli, the Sahara, and the
whole North African Hinterland, and whose members are reckoned by
millions. Muḥammad b. ‘Alí b. Sanúsí, the founder of this vast and
formidable organisation, was born at Algiers in 1791, lived for many
years at Mecca, and died at Jaghbúb in the Libyan desert, midway between
Egypt and Tripoli, in 1859. Concerning the real aims of the Sanúsís I
must refer the reader to an interesting paper by the Rev. E. Sell
(_Essays on Islam_, p. 127 sqq.). There is no doubt that they are
utterly opposed to all Western and modern civilisation, and seek to
regenerate Islam by establishing an independent theocratic State on the
model of that which the Prophet and his successors called into being at
Medína in the seventh century after Christ.

[Sidenote: Islam and modern civilisation.]

Since Napoleon showed the way by his expedition to Egypt in 1798, the
Moslems in that country, as likewise in Syria and North Africa, have
come more and more under European influence.[865] The above-mentioned
Muḥammad ‘Alí, who founded the Khedivial dynasty, and his successors
were fully alive to the practical benefits which might be obtained from
the superior culture of the West, and although their policy in this
respect was marked by greater zeal than discretion, they did not exert
themselves altogether in vain. The introduction of the printing-press in
1821 was an epoch-making measure. If, on the one hand, the publication
of many classical works, which had well-nigh fallen into oblivion,
rekindled the enthusiasm of the Arabs for their national literature, the
cause of progress--I use the word without prejudice--has been furthered
by the numerous political, literary, and scientific journals which are
now regularly issued in every country where Arabic is spoken.[866]
Besides these ephemeral sheets, books of all sorts, old and new, have
been multiplied by the native and European presses of Cairo, Búláq, and
Beyrout. The science and culture of Europe have been rendered accessible
in translations and adaptations of which the complete list would form a
volume in itself. Thus, an Arab may read in his own language the
tragedies of Racine, the comedies of Molière,[867] the fables of La
Fontaine, 'Paul and Virginia,' the 'Talisman,' 'Monte Cristo' (not to
mention scores of minor romances), and even the Iliad of Homer.[868]
Parallel to this imitative activity, we see a vigorous and growing
movement away from the literary models of the past. "Neo-Arabic
literature is only to a limited extent the heir of the old 'classical'
Arabic literature, and even shows a tendency to repudiate its
inheritance entirely. Its leaders are for the most part men who have
drunk from other springs and look at the world with different eyes. Yet
the past still plays a part in their intellectual background, and there
is a section amongst them upon whom that past retains a hold scarcely
shaken by newer influences. For many decades the partisans of the 'old'
and the 'new' have engaged in a struggle for the soul of the Arabic
world, a struggle in which the victory of one side over the other is
even yet not assured. The protagonists are (to classify them roughly for
practical purposes) the European-educated classes of Egyptians and
Syrians on the one hand, and those in Egypt and the less advanced Arabic
lands whose education has followed traditional lines on the other.
Whatever the ultimate result may be, there can be no question that the
conflict has torn the Arabic world from its ancient moorings, and that
the contemporary literature of Egypt and Syria breathes in its more
recent developments a spirit foreign to the old traditions."[869]

Hitherto Western culture has only touched the surface of Islam. Whether
it will eventually strike deeper and penetrate the inmost barriers of
that scholastic discipline and literary tradition which are so firmly
rooted in the affections of the Moslem peoples, or whether it will
always remain an exotic and highly-prized accomplishment of the
enlightened and emancipated few, but an object of scorn and detestation
to Muḥammadans in general--these are questions that may not be fully
solved for centuries to come.

Meanwhile the Past affords an ample and splendid field of study.

  "_Man lam ya‘i ’l-ta’ríkha fí ṣadrihí
  Lam yadri ḥulwa ’l-‘ayshi min murrihi
  Wa-man wa‘á akhbára man qad maḍá
  Aḍáfa a‘máran ilá ‘umrihí._"

  "He in whose heart no History is enscrolled
  Cannot discern in life's alloy the gold.
  But he that keeps the records of the Dead
  Adds to his life new lives a hundredfold."


[1] H. Grimme, _Weltgeschichte in Karakterbildern: Mohammed_ (Munich,
1904), p. 6 sqq.

[2] _Cf._ Nöldeke, _Die Semitischen Sprachen_ (Leipzig, 1899), or the
same scholar's article, 'Semitic Languages,' in the _Encyclopædia
Britannica_, 11th edition. Renan's _Histoire générale des langues
sémitiques_ (1855) is now antiquated. An interesting essay on the
importance of the Semites in the history of civilisation was published
by F. Hommel as an introduction to his _Semitischen Völker und
Sprachen_, vol. i (Leipzig, 1883). The dates in this table are of course
only approximate.

[3] Ibn Qutayba, _Kitábu ’l-Ma‘árij_, ed. by Wüstenfeld, p. 18.

[4] Full information concerning the genealogy of the Arabs will be found
in Wüstenfeld's _Genealogische Tabellen der Arabischen Stämme und
Familien_ with its excellent _Register_ (Göttingen, 1852-1853).

[5] The tribes Ḑabba, Tamím, Khuzayma, Hudhayl, Asad, Kinána, and
Quraysh together formed a group which is known as Khindif, and is often
distinguished from Qays ‘Aylán.

[6] Goldziher, _Muhammedanische Studien_, Part I, p. 133 sqq., 177 sqq.

[7] Nöldeke in _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 40, p. 177.

[8] See Margoliouth, _Mohammed and the Rise of Islam_, p. 4.

[9] Concerning the nature and causes of this antagonism see Goldziher,
_op. cit._, Part I, p. 78 sqq.

[10] The word 'Arabic' is always to be understood in this sense wherever
it occurs in the following pages.

[11] First published by Sachau in _Monatsberichte der Kön. Preuss. Akad.
der Wissenschaften zu Berlin_ (February, 1881), p. 169 sqq.

[12] See De Vogüé, _Syrie Centrale, Inscriptions Sémitiques_, p. 117.
Other references are given in _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 35, p. 749.

[13] On this subject the reader may consult Goldziher. _Muhammedanische
Studien_, Part I, p. 110 sqq.

[14] Professor Margoliouth in _F.R.A.S._ for 1905, p. 418

[15] Nöldeke, _Die Semitischen Sprachen_, p. 36 sqq. and p. 51.

[16] _Journal Asiatique_ (March, 1835), p. 209 sqq.

[17] Strictly speaking, the _Jáhiliyya_ includes the whole time between
Adam and Muḥammad, but in a narrower sense it may be used, as here, to
denote the Pre-islamic period of Arabic Literature.

[18] _Die Namen der Säugethiere bei den Südsemitischen Völkern_, p. 343

[19] _Iramu Dhátu ’l-‘Imád_ (Koran, lxxxix, 6). The sense of these words
is much disputed. See especially Ṭabarí's explanation in his great
commentary on the Koran (O. Loth in _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 35, p. 626 sqq.).

[20] I have abridged Ṭabarí, _Annals_, i, 231 sqq. _Cf._ also chapters
vii, xi, xxvi, and xlvi of the Koran.

[21] Koran, xi, 56-57.

[22] See Doughty's _Documents Epigraphiques recueillis dans le nord de
l'Arabie_, p. 12 sqq.

[23] Koran, vii, 76.

[24] Properly Saba’ with _hamza_, both syllables being short.

[25] The oldest record of Saba to which a date can be assigned is found
in the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions. We read in the Annals of King
Sargon (715 B.C.), "I received the tribute of Pharaoh, the King of
Egypt, of Shamsiyya, the Queen of Arabia, of Ithamara the Sabæan--gold,
spices, slaves, horses, and camels." Ithamara is identical with
Yatha‘amar, a name borne by several kings of Saba.

[26] A. Müller, _Der Islam im Morgen und Abendland_, vol. i, p. 24 seq.

[27] Nöldeke, however, declares the traditions which represent Kulayb as
leading the Rabí‘a clans to battle against the combined strength of
Yemen to be entirely unhistorical (_Fünf Mo‘allaqát_, i, 44).

[28] _Op. cit._, p. 94 seq. An excellent account of the progress made in
discovering and deciphering the South Arabic inscriptions down to the
year 1841 is given by Rödiger, _Excurs ueber himjaritische Inschriften_,
in his German translation of Wellsted's _Travels in Arabia_, vol. ii, p.
368 sqq.

[29] Seetzen's inscriptions were published in _Fundgruben des Orients_,
vol. ii (Vienna, 1811), p. 282 sqq. The one mentioned above was
afterwards deciphered and explained by Mordtmann in the _Z.D.M.G._, vol.
31, p. 89 seq.

[30] The oldest inscriptions, however, run from left to right and from
right to left alternately (βουστρορηδόν).

[31] _Notiz ueber die himjaritische Schrift nebst doppeltem Alphabet
derselben_ in _Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes_, vol. i
(Göttingen, 1837), p. 332 sqq.

[32] See Arnaud's _Relation d'un voyage à Mareb (Saba) dans l'Arabie
méridionale_ in the _Journal Asiatique_, 4th series, vol. v (1845), p.
211 sqq. and p. 309 sqq.

[33] See _Rapport sur une mission archéologique dans le Yémen_ in the
_Journal Asiatique_, 6th series, vol. xix (1872), pp. 5-98, 129-266,

[34] See D. H. Müller, _Die Burgen und Schlösser Südarabiens_ in
_S.B.W.A._, vol. 97, p. 981 sqq.

[35] The title _Mukarrib_ combines the significations of prince and

[36] Goldziher, _Muhammedanische Studien_, Part I, p. 3.

[37] See F. Prætorius, _Unsterblichkeitsglaube und Heiligenverehrung bei
den Himyaren_ in _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 27, p. 645. Hubert Grimme has given an
interesting sketch of the religious ideas and customs of the Southern
Arabs in _Weltgeschichte in Karakterbildern: Mohammed_ (Munich, 1904),
p. 29 sqq.

[38] _Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archæology_, vol. 5, p.

[39] This table of contents is quoted by D. H. Müller (_Südarabische
Studien_, p. 108, n. 2) from the title-page of the British Museum MS. of
the eighth book of the _Iklíl_. No complete copy of the work is known to
exist, but considerable portions of it are preserved in the British
Museum and in the Berlin Royal Library.

[40] The poet ‘Alqama b. Dhí Jadan, whose verses are often cited in the
commentary on the 'Ḥimyarite Ode.'

[41] _Die Himjarische Kasideh_ herausgegeben und übersetzt von Alfred
von Kremer (Leipzig, 1865). _The Lay of the Himyarites_, by W. F.
Prideaux (Sehore, 1879).

[42] Nashwán was a philologist of some repute. His great dictionary, the
_Shamsu ’l-‘Ulúm_, is a valuable aid to those engaged in the study of
South Arabian antiquities. It has been used by D. H. Müller to fix the
correct spelling of proper names which occur in the Ḥimyarite Ode
(_Z.D.M.G._, vol. 29, p. 620 sqq.; _Südarabische Studien_, p. 143 sqq.).

[43] _Fihrist_, p. 89, l. 26.

[44] _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_, ed. by Barbier de Meynard, vol. iv, p. 89.

[45] Von Kremer, _Die Südarabische Sage_, p. 56. Possibly, as he
suggests (p. 115), the story may be a symbolical expression of the fact
that the Sabæans were divided into two great tribes, Ḥimyar and
Kahlán, the former of which held the chief power.

[46] _Cf._ Koran xxxiv, 14 sqq. The existing ruins have been described
by Arnaud in the _Journal Asiatique_, 7th series, vol. 3 (1874), p. 3

[47] I follow Mas‘údí, _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_ (ed. by Barbier de Meynard),
vol. iii, p. 378 sqq., and Nuwayrí in Reiske's _Primæ lineæ Historiæ
Rerum Arabicarum_, p. 166 sqq.

[48] The story of the migration from Ma’rib, as related below, may have
some historical basis, but the Dam itself was not finally destroyed
until long afterwards. Inscriptions carved on the existing ruins show
that it was more or less in working order down to the middle of the
sixth century A.D. The first recorded flood took place in 447-450, and
on another occasion (in 539-542) the Dam was partially reconstructed by
Abraha, the Abyssinian viceroy of Yemen. See E. Glaser, _Zwei
Inschriften über den Dammbruch von Mârib_ (_Mitteilungen der
Vorderastatischen Gesellschaft_, 1897, 6).

[49] He is said to have gained this sobriquet from his custom of tearing
to pieces (_mazaqa_) every night the robe which he had worn during the

[50] Freytag, _Arabum Proverbia_, vol. i, p. 497.

[51] Hamdání, _Iklíl_, bk. viii, edited by D. H. Müller in _S.B.W.A._
(Vienna, 1881), vol. 97, p. 1037. The verses are quoted with some
textual differences by Yáqút, _Mu‘jam al-Buldán_, ed. by Wüstenfeld,
vol. iv, 387, and Ibn Hishám, p. 9.

[52] The following inscription is engraved on one of the stone cylinders
described by Arnaud. "Yatha‘amar Bayyin, son of Samah‘alí Yanúf, Prince
of Saba, caused the mountain Balaq to be pierced and erected the
flood-gates (called) Raḥab for convenience of irrigation." I
translate after D. H. Müller, _loc. laud._, p. 965.

[53] The words _Ḥimyar_ and _Tubba‘_ do not occur at all in the older
inscriptions, and very seldom even in those of a more recent date.

[54] See Koran, xviii, 82-98.

[55] Dhu ’l-Qarnayn is described as "the measurer of the earth"
(_Massáḥu ’l-arḍ_) by Hamdání, _Jazíratu ’l-‘Arab_, p. 46, l. 10.
If I may step for a moment outside the province of literary history to
discuss the mythology of these verses, it seems to me more than probable
that Dhu ’l-Qarnayn is a personification of the Sabæan divinity ‘Athtar,
who represents "sweet Hesper-Phosphor, double name" (see D. H. Müller in
_S.B.W.A._, vol. 97, p. 973 seq.). The Minæan inscriptions have "‘Athtar
of the setting and ‘Athtar of the rising" (_ibid._, p. 1033). Moreover,
in the older inscriptions ‘Athtar and Almaqa are always mentioned
together; and Almaqa, which according to Hamdání is the name of Venus
(_al-Zuhara_), was identified by Arabian archæologists with Bilqís. For
_qarn_ in the sense of 'ray' or 'beam' see Goldziher, _Abhand. zur Arab.
Philologie_, Part I, p. 114. I think there is little doubt that Dhu
’l-Qarnayn and Bilqís may be added to the examples (_ibid._, p. 111
sqq.) of that peculiar conversion by which many heathen deities were
enabled to maintain themselves under various disguises within the pale
of Islam.

[56] The Arabic text will be found in Von Kremer's _Altarabische
Gedichte ueber die Volkssage von Jemen_, p. 15 (No. viii, l. 6 sqq.).
Ḥassán b. Thábit, the author of these lines, was contemporary with
Muḥammad, to whose cause he devoted what poetical talent he possessed.
In the verses immediately preceding those translated above he claims to
be a descendant of Qaḥṭán.

[57] Von Kremer, _Die Südarabische Sage_, p. vii of the Introduction.

[58] A prose translation is given by Von Kremer, _ibid._, p. 78 sqq. The
Arabic text which he published afterwards in _Altarabische Gedichte
ueber die Volkssage von Jemen_, p. 18 sqq., is corrupt in some places
and incorrect in others. I have followed Von Kremer's interpretation
except when it seemed to me to be manifestly untenable. The reader will
have no difficulty in believing that this poem was meant to be recited
by a wandering minstrel to the hearers that gathered round him at
nightfall. It may well be the composition of one of those professional
story-tellers who flourished in the first century after the Flight, such
as ‘Abíd b. Sharya (see p. 13 _supra_), or Yazíd b. Rabí‘a b. Mufarrigh
(† 688 A.D.), who is said to have invented the poems and romances of the
Ḥimyarite kings (_Aghání_, xvii, 52).

[59] Instead of Hinwam the original has Hayyúm, for which Von Kremer
reads Ahnúm. But see Hamdání, _Jazíralu ’l-‘Arab_, p. 193, last line and

[60] I read _al-jahdi_ for _al-jahli_.

[61] I omit the following verses, which tell how an old woman of Medína
came to King As‘ad, imploring him to avenge her wrongs, and how he
gathered an innumerable army, routed his enemies, and returned to
Ẓafár in triumph.

[62] Ibn Hishám, p. 13, l. 14 sqq.

[63] Ibn Hishám, p. 15, l. 1 sqq.

[64] _Ibid._, p. 17, l. 2 sqq.

[65] Arabic text in Von Kremer's _Altarabische Gedichte ueber die
Volkssage von Jemen_, p. 20 seq.; prose translation by the same author
in _Die Südarabische Sage_, p. 84 sqq.

[66] The second half of this verse is corrupt. Von Kremer translates (in
his notes to the Arabic text, p. 26): "And bury with me the camel
stallions (_al-khílán_) and the slaves (_al-ruqqán_)." Apart, however,
from the fact that _ruqqán_ (plural of _raqíq_) is not mentioned by the
lexicographers, it seems highly improbable that the king would have
commanded such a barbarity. I therefore take _khílán_ (plural of _khál_)
in the meaning of 'soft stuffs of Yemen,' and read _zuqqán_ (plural of

[67] Ghaymán or Miqláb, a castle near Ṣan‘á, in which the
Ḥimyarite kings were buried.

[68] The text and translation of this section of the _Iklíl_ have been
published by D. H. Müller in _S.B.W.A._, vols. 94 and 97 (Vienna,

[69] _Aghání_, xx, 8, l. 14 seq.

[70] Koran, lxxxv, 4 sqq.

[71] Ṭabarí, i, 927, l. 19 sqq.

[72] The following narrative is abridged from Ṭabarí, i, 928, l. 2
sqq. = Nöldeke, _Geschichte der Perser und Araber zur Zeit der
Sasaniden_, p. 192 sqq.

[73] The reader will find a full and excellent account of these matters
in Professor Browne's _Literary History of Persia_, vol. i, pp. 178-181.

[74] Goldziher, _Muhammedanische Studien_, Part I, p. 225.

[75] Maydání's collection has been edited, with a Latin translation by
Freytag, in three volumes (_Arabum Proverbia_, Bonn, 1838-1843).

[76] The _Kitábu ’l-Aghání_ has been published at Buláq (1284-1285 A.H.)
in twenty volumes. A volume of biographies not contained in the Buláq
text was edited by R. E. Brünnow (Leiden, 1888).

[77] _Muqaddima_ of Ibn Khaldún (Beyrout, 1900), p. 554, ll. 8-10; _Les
Prolégomènes d' Ibn Khaldoun traduits par M. de Slane_ (Paris, 1863-68)
vol. iii, p. 331.

[78] Published at Paris, 1847-1848, in three volumes.

[79] These are the same Bedouin Arabs of Tanúkh who afterwards formed
part of the population of Ḥíra. See p. 38 _infra_.

[80] Ibn Qutayba in Brünnow's _Chrestomathy_, p. 29.

[81] Properly _al-Zabbá_, an epithet meaning 'hairy.' According to
Ṭabarí (i, 757) her name was Ná’ila. It is odd that in the Arabic
version of the story the name Zenobia (Zaynab) should be borne by the
heroine's sister.

[82] The above narrative is abridged from _Aghání_, xiv, 73, l. 20-75,
l. 25. _Cf._ Ṭabarí, i, 757-766; Mas‘údí, _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_ (ed. by
Barbier de Meynard), vol. iii, pp. 189-199.

[83] Concerning Ḥíra and its history the reader may consult an
admirable monograph by Dr. G. Rothstein, _Die Dynastie der Laẖmiden
in al-Ḥíra_ (Berlin, 1899), where the sources of information are set
forth (p. 5 sqq.). The incidental references to contemporary events in
Syriac and Byzantine writers, who often describe what they saw with
their own eyes, are extremely valuable as a means of fixing the
chronology, which Arabian historians can only supply by conjecture,
owing to the want of a definite era during the Pre-islamic period.
Muḥammadan general histories usually contain sections, more or less
mythical in character, "On the Kings of Ḥíra and Ghassán." Attention
may be called in particular to the account derived from Hishám b.
Muḥammad al-Kalbí, which is preserved by Ṭabarí and has been
translated with a masterly commentary by Nöldeke in his _Geschichte der
Perser und Araber zur Zeit der Sasaniden_. Hishám had access to the
archives kept in the churches of Ḥíra, and claims to have extracted
therefrom many genealogical and chronological details relating to the
Lakhmite dynasty (Ṭabarí, i, 770, 7).

[84] Ḥíra is the Syriac _ḥértá_ (sacred enclosure, monastery),
which name was applied to the originally mobile camp of the Persian
Arabs and retained as the designation of the garrison town.

[85] Sadír was a castle in the vicinity of Ḥíra.

[86] Ṭabarí, i, 853, 20 sqq.

[87] Bahrám was educated at Ḥíra under Nu‘mán and Mundhir. The
Persian grandees complained that he had the manners and appearance of
the Arabs among whom he had grown up (Ṭabarí, i, 858, 7).

[88] Má’ al-samá (_i.e._, Water of the sky) is said to have been the
sobriquet of Mundhir's mother, whose proper name was Máriya or Máwiyya.

[89] For an account of Mazdak and his doctrines the reader may consult
Nöldeke's translation of Ṭabarí, pp. 140-144, 154, and 455-467, and
Professor Browne's _Literary History of Persia_, vol. i, pp. 168-172.

[90] Mundhir slaughtered in cold blood some forty or fifty members of
the royal house of Kinda who had fallen into his hands. Ḥárith
himself was defeated and slain by Mundhir in 529. Thereafter the power
of Kinda sank, and they were gradually forced back to their original
settlements in Ḥaḍramawt.

[91] On another occasion he sacrificed four hundred Christian nuns to
the same goddess.

[92] See p. 50 _infra_.

[93] _Aghání_, xix, 86, l. 16 sqq.

[94] _Aghání_, xix, 87, l. 18 sqq.

[95] Hind was a princess of Kinda (daughter of the Ḥárith b. ‘Amr
mentioned above), whom Mundhir probably captured in one of his marauding
expeditions. She was a Christian, and founded a monastery at Ḥíra.
See Nöldeke's translation of Ṭabarí, p. 172, n. 1.

[96] _Aghání_, xxi, 194, l. 22.

[97] Zayd was actually Regent of Ḥíra after the death of Qábús, and
paved the way for Mundhir IV, whose violence had made him detested by
the people (Nöldeke's translation of Ṭabarí, p. 346, n. 1).

[98] The Arabs called the Byzantine emperor '_Qayṣar_,' _i.e._,
Cæsar, and the Persian emperor '_Kisrá_,' _i.e._, Chosroes.

[99] My friend and colleague, Professor A. A. Bevan, writes to me that
"the story of ‘Adí's marriage with the king's daughter is based partly
on a verse in which the poet speaks of himself as connected by marriage
with the royal house (_Aghání_, ii, 26, l. 5), and partly on another
verse in which he mentions 'the home of Hind' (_ibid._, ii, 32, l. 1).
But this Hind was evidently a Bedouin woman, not the king's daughter."

[100] _Aghání_, ii, 22, l. 3 sqq.

[101] When Hurmuz summoned the sons of Mundhir to Ctesiphon that he
might choose a king from among them, ‘Adí said to each one privately,
"If the Chosroes demands whether you can keep the Arabs in order, reply,
'All except Nu‘mán.'" To Nu‘mán, however, he said: "The Chosroes will
ask, 'Can you manage your brothers?' Say to him: 'If I am not strong
enough for them, I am still less able to control other folk!'" Hurmuz
was satisfied with this answer and conferred the crown upon Nu‘mán.

[102] A full account of these matters is given by Ṭabarí, i,
1016-1024 = Nöldeke's translation, pp. 314-324.

[103] A similar description occurs in Freytag's _Arabum Proverbia_, vol.
ii. p. 589 sqq.

[104] Ṭabarí, i, 1024-1029 = Nöldeke's translation, pp. 324-331. Ibn
Qutayba in Brünnow's _Chrestomathy_, pp. 32-33.

[105] A town in Arabia, some distance to the north of Medína.

[106] See Freytag, _Arabum Proverbia_, vol. ii, p. 611.

[107] A celebrated Companion of the Prophet. He led the Moslem army to
the conquest of Syria, and died of the plague in 639 A.D.

[108] Ibn Qutayba in Brünnow's _Chrestomathy_, pp. 26-28.

[109] The following details are extracted from Nöldeke's monograph: _Die
Ghassânischen Fürsten aus dem Hause Gafna's_, in _Abhand. d. Kön.
Preuss. Akad. d. Wissenschaften_ (Berlin, 1887).

[110] Nöldeke, _op. cit._, p. 20, refers to John of Ephesus, iii, 2. See
_The Third Part of the Ecclesiastical History of John, Bishop of
Ephesus_, translated by R. Payne Smith, p. 168.

[111] Iyás b. Qabíṣa succeeded Nu‘mán III as ruler of Ḥíra
(602-611 A.D.). He belonged to the tribe of Ṭayyi’. See Rothstein,
_Laẖmiden_, p. 119.

[112] I read _yatafaḍḍalu_ for _yanfaṣilu_. The arrangement
which the former word denotes is explained in Lane's Dictionary as "the
throwing a portion of one's garment over his left shoulder, and drawing
its extremity under his right arm, and tying the two extremities
together in a knot upon his bosom."

[113] The _fanak_ is properly a kind of white stoat or weasel found in
Abyssinia and northern Africa, but the name is also applied by
Muḥammadans to other furs.

[114] _Aghání_, xvi, 15, ll. 22-30. So far as it purports to proceed
from Ḥassán, the passage is apocryphal, but this does not seriously
affect its value as evidence, if we consider that it is probably
compiled from the poet's _díwán_ in which the Ghassánids are often
spoken of. The particular reference to Jabala b. al-Ayham is a mistake.
Ḥassán's acquaintance with the Ghassánids belongs to the pagan period
of his life, and he is known to have accepted Islam many years before
Jabala began to reign.

[115] Nábigha, ed. by Derenbourg, p. 78; Nöldeke's _Delectus_, p. 96.
The whole poem has been translated by Sir Charles Lyall in his _Ancient
Arabian Poetry_, p. 95 sqq.

[116] Thorbecke, _‘Antarah, ein vorislamischer Dichter_, p. 14.

[117] The following narrative is an abridgment of the history of the War
of Basús as related in Tibrízí's commentary on the _Ḥamása_ (ed. by
Freytag), pp. 420-423 and 251-255. _Cf._ Nöldeke's _Delectus_, p. 39 sqq.

[118] See p. 5 _supra_.

[119] Wá’il is the common ancestor of Bakr and Taghlib. For the use of
stones (anṣáb) in the worship of the Pagan Arabs see Wellhausen,
_Reste Arabischen Heidentums_ (2nd ed.), p. 101 sqq. Robertson Smith,
_Lectures on the Religion of the Semites_ (London, 1894), p. 200 sqq.

[120] _Ḥamása_, 422, 14 sqq. Nöldeke's _Delectus_, p. 39, last line and

[121] _Ḥamása_, 423, 11 sqq. Nöldeke's _Delectus_, p. 41, l. 3 sqq.

[122] _Ḥamása_, 252, 8 seq. Nöldeke's _Delectus_, p. 44, l. 3 seq.

[123] Hind is the mother of Bakr and Taghlib. Here the Banú Hind (Sons
of Hind) are the Taghlibites.

[124] _Ḥamása_, 9, 17 seq. Nöldeke's _Delectus_, p. 45, l. 10 sqq.

[125] _Ḥamása_, 252, 14 seq. Nöldeke's _Delectus_, p. 46, l. 16 sqq.

[126] _Ḥamása_, 254, 6 seq. Nöldeke's _Delectus_, p. 47, l. 2 seq.

[127] _Ḥamása_, 96. Ibn Nubáta, cited by Rasmussen, _Additamenta ad
Historiam Arabum ante Islamismum_, p. 34, remarks that before Qays no
one had ever lamented a foe slain by himself (_wa-huwa awwalu man rathá

[128] Ibn Hishám, p. 51, l. 7 sqq.

[129] In the account of Abraha's invasion given below I have followed
Ṭabarí, i, 936, 9-945, 19 = Nöldeke's translation, pp. 206-220.

[130] I read _ḥilálak_. See Glossary to Ṭabarí.

[131] Ṭabarí, i, 940, 13.

[132] Another version says: "Whenever a man was struck sores and
pustules broke out on that part of his body. This was the first
appearance of the small-pox" (Ṭabarí, i, 945, 2 sqq.). Here we have
the historical fact--an outbreak of pestilence in the Abyssinian
army--which gave rise to the legend related above.

[133] There is trustworthy evidence that Abraha continued to rule Yemen
for some time after his defeat.

[134] Ibn Hishám, p. 38, l. 14 sqq.

[135] _Ibid._, p. 40, l. 12 sqq.

[136] See pp. 48-49 _supra_.

[137] Full details are given by Ṭabarí, i, 1016-1037 = Nöldeke's
translation, pp. 311-345.

[138] A poet speaks of three thousand Arabs and two thousand Persians
(Ṭabarí, i, 1036, 5-6).

[139] Ibn Rashíq in Suyúṭí's Muzhir (Buláq, 1282 A.H.), Part II, p.
236, l. 22 sqq. I quote the translation of Sir Charles Lyall in the
Introduction to his _Ancient Arabian Poetry_, p. 17, a most admirable
work which should be placed in the hands of every one who is beginning
the study of this difficult subject.

[140] Freytag, _Arabum Proverbia_, vol. ii, p. 494.

[141] Numb. xxi, 17. Such well-songs are still sung in the Syrian desert
(see Enno Littmann, _Neuarabische Volkspoesie_, in _Abhand. der Kön.
Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, Phil.-Hist. Klasse_, Göttingen, 1901),
p. 92. In a specimen cited at p. 81 we find the words _witla yā
dlêwēna_--_i.e._, "Rise, O bucket!" several times repeated.

[142] Goldziher, _Ueber die Vorgeschichte der Higâ-Poesie_ in his
_Abhand. zur Arab. Philologie_, Part I (Leyden, 1896), p. 26.

[143] _Cf._ the story of Balak and Balaam, with Goldziher's remarks
thereon, _ibid._, p. 42 seq.

[144] _Ibid._, p. 46 seq.

[145] _Rajaz_ primarily means "a tremor (which is a symptom of disease)
in the hind-quarters of a camel." This suggested to Dr. G. Jacob his
interesting theory that the Arabian metres arose out of the
camel-driver's song (_ḥidá_) in harmony with the varying paces of the
animal which he rode (_Studien in arabischen Dichtern_, Heft III, p. 179

[146] The Arabic verse (_bayt_) consists of two halves or hemistichs
(_miṣrá‘_). It is generally convenient to use the word 'line' as a
translation of _miṣrá‘_, but the reader must understand that the
'line' is not, as in English poetry, an independent unit. _Rajaz_ is the
sole exception to this rule, there being here no division into
hemistichs, but each line (verse) forming an unbroken whole and rhyming
with that which precedes it.

[147] In Arabic 'al-bayt,' the tent, which is here used figuratively for
the grave.

[148] Ibn Qutayba, _Kitábu ’l-Shi‘r wa-’l-Shu‘ará_, p. 36, l. 3 sqq.

[149] Already in the sixth century A.D. the poet ‘Antara complains that
his predecessors have left nothing new for him to say (_Mu‘allaqa_, v.

[150] _Ancient Arabian Poetry_, Introduction, p. xvi.

[151] _Qaṣída_ is explained by Arabian lexicographers to mean a poem
with an artistic purpose, but they differ as to the precise sense in
which 'purpose' is to be understood. Modern critics are equally at
variance. Jacob (_Stud. in Arab. Dichtern_, Heft III, p. 203) would
derive the word from the principal motive of these poems, namely, to
gain a rich reward in return for praise and flattery. Ahlwardt
(_Bemerkungen über die Aechtheit der alten Arab. Gedichte_, p. 24 seq.)
connects it with _qaṣada, to break_, "because it consists of verses,
every one of which is divided into two halves, with a common end-rhyme:
thus the whole poem is _broken_, as it were, into two halves;" while in
the _Rajaz_ verses, as we have seen (p. 74 _supra_), there is no such

[152] _Kitábu ’l-Shi‘r wa-’l-Shu‘ará_, p. 14, l. 10 sqq.

[153] Nöldeke (_Fünf Mo‘allaqát_, i, p. 3 sqq.) makes the curious
observation, which illustrates the highly artificial character of this
poetry, that certain animals well known to the Arabs (_e.g._, the
panther, the jerboa, and the hare) are seldom mentioned and scarcely
ever described, apparently for no reason except that they were not
included in the conventional repertory.

[154] _Ancient Arabian Poetry_, p. 83.

[155] Verses 3-13. I have attempted to imitate the 'Long' (_Ṭawíl_)
metre of the original, viz.:--

       ⌣ |     ⌣   |     ⌣ |
   ⌣ - - | ⌣ - - - | ⌣ - - | ⌣ - ⌣ -

The Arabic text of the _Lámiyya_, with prose translation and commentary,
is printed in De Sacy's _Chrestomathie Arabe_ (2nd. ed.), vol. iiº, p.
134 sqq., and vol. ii, p. 337 sqq. It has been translated into English
verse by G. Hughes (London, 1896). Other versions are mentioned by
Nöldeke, _Beiträge zur Kenntniss d. Poesie d. alten Araber_, p. 200.

[156] The poet, apparently, means that his three friends are _like_ the
animals mentioned. Prof. Bevan remarks, however, that this
interpretation is doubtful, since an Arab would scarcely compare his
_friend_ to a hyena.

[157] _Ḥamása_, 242.

[158] _Ḥamása_, 41-43. This poem has been rendered in verse by Sir
Charles Lyall, _Ancient Arabian Poetry_, p. 16, and by the late Dr. A.
B. Davidson, _Biblical and Literary Essays_, p. 263.

[159] Mahaffy, _Social Life in Greece_, p. 21.

[160] See pp. 59-60 _supra_.

[161] _Ḥamása_, 82-83. The poet is ‘Amr b. Ma‘díkarib, a famous
heathen knight who accepted Islam and afterwards distinguished himself
in the Persian wars.

[162] Al-Afwah al-Awdí in Nöldeke's _Delectus_, p. 4, ll. 8-10. The
poles and pegs represent lords and commons.

[163] _Ḥamása_, 122.

[164] _Ibid._, 378.

[165] _Cf._ the verses by al-Find, p. 58 _supra_.

[166] _Ḥamása_, 327.

[167] Imru’u ’l-Qays was one of the princes of Kinda, a powerful tribe
in Central Arabia.

[168] _Aghání_, xix, 99. The last two lines are wanting in the poem as
there cited, but appear in the Selection from the Aghání published at
Beyrout in 1888, vol. ii, p. 18.

[169] See p. 45 sqq.

[170] _Aghání_, xvi, 98, ll. 5-22.

[171] _Aghání_, xvi, 97, l. 5 sqq.

[172] His _Díwán_ has been edited with translation and notes by F.
Schulthess (Leipzig, 1897).

[173] _Ḥamása_, 729. The hero mentioned in the first verse is ‘Ámir
b. Uḥaymir of Bahdala. On a certain occasion, when envoys from the
Arabian tribes were assembled at Ḥíra, King Mundhir b. Má’ al-samá
produced two pieces of cloth of Yemen and said, "Let him whose tribe is
noblest rise up and take them." Thereupon ‘Ámir stood forth, and
wrapping one piece round his waist and the other over his shoulders,
carried off the prize unchallenged.

[174] Lady Anne and Mr. Wilfrid Blunt, _The Seven Golden Odes of Pagan
Arabia_, Introduction, p. 14.

[175] _Aghání_ xvi, 22, ll. 10-16.

[176] _Aghání_, xviii, 137, ll. 5-10. Freytag, _Arabum Proverbia_, vol.
ii, p. 834.

[177] _Ancient Arabian Poetry_, p. 81.

[178] _Mufaḍḍaliyyát_, ed. Thorbecke, p. 23.

[179] See Goldziher, _Muhammedanische Studien_, Part II, p. 295 sqq.

[180] Koran, xvi, 59-61.

[181] Freytag, _Arabum Proverbia_, vol. i, p. 229.

[182] Koran, xvii, 33. _Cf._ lxxxi, 8-9 (a description of the Last
Judgment): "_When the girl buried alive shall be asked for what crime
she was killed._"

[183] Literally: "And tear the veil from (her, as though she were) flesh
on a butcher's board," _i.e._, defenceless, abandoned to the

[184] _Ḥamása_, 140. Although these verses are not Pre-islamic, and
belong in fact to a comparatively late period of Islam, they are
sufficiently pagan in feeling to be cited in this connection. The
author, Isḥáq b. Khalaf, lived under the Caliph Ma’mún (813-833 A.D.).
He survived his adopted daughter--for Umayma was his sister's child--and
wrote an elegy on her, which is preserved in the _Kámil_ of al-Mubarrad,
p. 715, l. 7 sqq., and has been translated, together with the verses now
in question, by Sir Charles Lyall, _Ancient Arabian Poetry_, p. 26.

[185] _Ḥamása_, 142. Lyall, _op. cit._, p. 28.

[186] _Ḥamása_, 7.

[187] _Ḥamása_, 321.

[188] See p. 55 sqq.

[189] _Cf._ Rückert's _Hamâsa_, vol. i, p. 61 seq.

[190] _Ḥamása_, 30.

[191] _Aghání_, ii, 160, l. 11-162, l. 1 = p. 13 sqq. of the Beyrout

[192] The Bedouins consider that any one who has eaten of their food or
has touched the rope of their tent is entitled to claim their
protection. Such a person is called _dakhíl_. See Burckhardt, _Notes on
the Bedouins and Wahábys_ (London, 1831), vol. i, p. 160 sqq. and 329

[193] See p. 81 _supra_.

[194] Stuttgart, 1819, p. 253 sqq. The other renderings in verse with
which I am acquainted are those of Rückert (_Hamâsa_, vol. i, p. 299)
and Sir Charles Lyall (_Ancient Arabian Poetry_, p. 48). I have adopted
Sir Charles Lyall's arrangement of the poem, and have closely followed
his masterly interpretation, from which I have also borrowed some turns
of phrase that could not be altered except for the worse.

[195] The Arabic text will be found in the _Hamása_, p. 382 sqq.

[196] This and the following verse are generally taken to be a
description not of the poet himself, but of his nephew. The
interpretation given above does no violence to the language, and greatly
enhances the dramatic effect.

[197] In the original this and the preceding verse are transposed.

[198] Although the poet's uncle was killed in this onslaught, the
surprised party suffered severely. "The two clans" belonged to the great
tribe of Hudhayl, which is mentioned in the penultimate verse.

[199] It was customary for the avenger to take a solemn vow that he
would drink no wine before accomplishing his vengeance.

[200] _Ḥamása_, 679.

[201] _Cf._ the lines translated below from the _Mu‘allaqa_ of

[202] The best edition of the _Mu‘allaqát_ is Sir Charles Lyall's (_A
Commentary on Ten Ancient Arabic Poems_, Calcutta, 1894), which contains
in addition to the seven _Mu‘allaqát_ three odes by A‘shá, Nábigha, and
‘Abíd b. al-Abraṣ. Nöldeke has translated five Mu‘allaqas (omitting
those of Imru’ u’ l-Qays and Ṭarafa) with a German commentary,
_Sitzungsberichte der Kais. Akad. der Wissenschaften in Wien_,
_Phil.-Histor. Klasse_, vols. 140-144 (1899-1901); this is by far the
best translation for students. No satisfactory version in English prose
has hitherto appeared, but I may call attention to the fine and
original, though somewhat free, rendering into English verse by Lady
Anne Blunt and Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (_The Seven Golden Odes of Pagan
Arabia_, London, 1903).

[203] _Ancient Arabian Poetry_, Introduction, p. xliv. Many other
interpretations have been suggested--_e.g._, 'The Poems written down
from oral dictation' (Von Kremer), 'The richly bejewelled' (Ahlwardt),
'The Pendants,' as though they were pearls strung on a necklace (A.

[204] The belief that the _Mu‘allaqát_ were written in letters of gold
seems to have arisen from a misunderstanding of the name _Mudhhabát_ or
_Mudhahhabát_ (_i.e._, the Gilded Poems) which is sometimes given to
them in token of their excellence, just as the Greeks gave the title
χρύσεα ἔπη to a poem falsely attributed to Pythagoras. That some of
the _Mu‘allaqát_ were recited at ‘Ukáẓ is probable enough and is
definitely affirmed in the case of ‘Amr b. Kulthúm (_Aghání_, ix, 182).

[205] The legend first appears in the _‘Iqd al-Faríd_ (ed. of Cairo,
1293 A.H., vol. iii, p. 116 seq.) of Ibn ‘Abdi Rabbihi, who died in 940

[206] See the Introduction to Nöldeke's _Beiträge zur Kenntniss der
Poesie der alten Araber_ (Hannover, 1864), p. xvii sqq., and his article
Mo‘allaḳát' in the _Encyclopædia Britannica_.

[207] It is well known that the order of the verses in the _Mu‘allaqát_,
as they have come down to us, is frequently confused, and that the
number of various readings is very large. I have generally followed the
text and arrangement adopted by Nöldeke in his German translation.

[208] See p. 42 _supra_.

[209] _Ancient Arabian Poetry_, p. 105.

[210] See the account of his life (according to the _Kitábu’ l-Aghání_)
in _Le Diwan d'Amro’lkaïs_, edited with translation and notes by Baron
MacGuckin de Slane (Paris, 1837), pp. 1-51; and in _Amrilkais, der
Dichter und König_ by Friedrich Rückert (Stuttgart and Tübingen, 1843).

[211] That he was not, however, the inventor of the Arabian _qaṣída_
as described above (p. 76 sqq.) appears from the fact that he mentions
in one of his verses a certain Ibn Ḥumám or Ibn Khidhám who
introduced, or at least made fashionable, the prelude with which almost
every ode begins: a lament over the deserted camping-ground (Ibn
Qutayba, _K. al-Shi‘r wa-’l-Shu‘ará_, p. 52).

[212] The following lines are translated from Arnold's edition of the
_Mu‘allaqát_ (Leipsic, 1850), p. 9 sqq., vv. 18-35.

[213] The native commentators are probably right in attributing this and
the three preceding verses (48-51 in Arnold's edition) to the
brigand-poet, Ta’abbaṭa Sharran.

[214] We have already (p. 39) referred to the culture of the Christian
Arabs of Ḥíra.

[215] Vv. 54-59 (Lyall); 56-61 (Arnold).

[216] See Nöldeke, _Fünf Mu‘allaqát_, i, p. 51 seq. According to the
traditional version (_Aghání_, ix, 179), a band of Taghlibites went
raiding, lost their way in the desert, and perished of thirst, having
been refused water by a sept of the Banú Bakr. Thereupon Taghlib
appealed to King ‘Amr to enforce payment of the blood-money which they
claimed, and chose ‘Amr b. Kulthúm to plead their cause at Ḥíra. So
‘Amr recited his _Mu‘allaqa_ before the king, and was answered by
Ḥárith on behalf of Bakr.

[217] Freytag, _Arabum Proverbia_, vol. ii, p. 233.

[218] _Aghání_, ix, 182.

[219] Vv. 1-8 (Arnold); in Lyall's edition the penultimate verse is

[220] Vv. 15-18 (Lyall); 19-22 (Arnold).

[221] The Arabs use the term _kunya_ to denote this familiar style of
address in which a person is called, not by his own name, but 'father of
So-and-so' (either a son or, as in the present instance, a daughter).

[222] _I.e._, even the _jinn_ (genies) stand in awe of us.

[223] Here Ma‘add signifies the Arabs in general.

[224] Vv. 20-30 (Lyall), omitting vv. 22, 27, 28.

[225] This is a figurative way of saying that Taghlib has never been

[226] Vv. 46-51 (Lyall), omitting v. 48.

[227] _I.e._, we will show our enemies that they cannot defy us with
impunity. This verse, the 93rd in Lyall's edition, is omitted by Arnold.

[228] Vv. 94-104 (Arnold), omitting vv. 100 and 101. If the last words
are anything more than a poetic fiction, 'the sea' must refer to the
River Euphrates.

[229] Vv. 16-18.

[230] Vv. 23-26.

[231] A place in the neighbourhood of Mecca.

[232] Vv. 40-42 (Lyall); 65-67 (Arnold).

[233] See _‘Antarah, ein vorislamischer Dichter_, by H. Thorbecke
(Leipzig, 1867).

[234] I have taken some liberties in this rendering, as the reader may
see by referring to the verses (44 and 47-52 in Lyall's edition) on
which it is based.

[235] Ghayẓ b. Murra was a descendant of Dhubyán and the ancestor of
Harim and Ḥárith.

[236] The Ka‘ba.

[237] This refers to the religious circumambulation (_ṭawáf_).

[238] Vv. 16-19 (Lyall).

[239] There is no reason to doubt the genuineness of this passage, which
affords evidence of the diffusion of Jewish and Christian ideas in pagan
Arabia. Ibn Qutayba observes that these verses indicate the poet's
belief in the Resurrection (_K. al-Shi‘r wa-’l-Shu‘ará_, p. 58, l. 12).

[240] Vv. 27-31.

[241] The order of these verses in Lyall's edition is as follows: 56,
57, 54, 50, 55, 53, 49, 47, 48, 52, 58.

[242] Reference has been made above to the old Arabian belief that poets
owed their inspiration to the _jinn_ (genii), who are sometimes called
_shayátín_ (satans). See Goldziher, _Abhand. zur arab. Philologie_, Part
I, pp. 1-14.

[243] Vv. 1-10 (Lyall), omitting v. 5.

[244] Vv. 55-60 (Lyall).

[245] The term _nábigha_ is applied to a poet whose genius is slow in
declaring itself but at last "jets forth vigorously and abundantly"

[246] _Díwán_, ed. by Derenbourg, p. 83; Nöldeke's _Delectus_, p. 96.

[247] He means to say that Nu‘mán has no reason to feel aggrieved
because he (Nábigha) is grateful to the Ghassánids for their munificent
patronage; since Nu‘mán does not consider that his own favourites, in
showing gratitude to himself, are thereby guilty of treachery towards
their former patrons.

[248] _Diwán_, ed. by Derenbourg, p. 76, ii, 21. In another place (p.
81, vi, 6) he says, addressing his beloved:--

 "Wadd give thee greeting! for dalliance with women is lawful to me
    no more,
  Since Religion has become a serious matter."

Wadd was a god worshipped by the pagan Arabs. Derenbourg's text has
_rabbí_, _i.e._, Allah, but see Nöldeke's remarks in _Z.D.M.G._, vol.
xli (1887), p. 708.

[249] _Aghání_, viii, 85, last line-86, l. 10.

[250] Lyall, _Ten Ancient Arabic Poems_, p. 146 seq., vv. 25-31.

[251] Ahlwardt, _The Divans_, p. 106, vv. 8-10.

[252] _Ḥamása_, p. 382, l. 17.

[253] Nöldeke, _Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Poesie der alten Araber_, p.

[254] Nöldeke, _ibid._, p. 175.

[255] The original title is _al-Mukhtárát_ (The Selected Odes) or
_al-Ikhtiyárát_ (The Selections).

[256] Oxford, 1918-21. The Indexes of personal and place-names, poetical
quotations, and selected words were prepared by Professor Bevan and
published in 1924 in the E. J. W. Gibb Memorial Series.

[257] Ibn Khallikán, ed. by Wüstenfeld, No. 350 = De Slane's
translation, vol. ii, p. 51.

[258] See Nöldeke, _Beiträge_, p. 183 sqq. There would seem to be
comparatively few poems of Pre-islamic date in Buḥturí's anthology.

[259] Ibn Khallikán, ed. by Wüstenfeld, No. 204 = De Slane's
translation, vol. i, p. 470.

[260] Many interesting details concerning the tradition of Pre-islamic
poetry by the _Ráwís_ and the Philologists will be found in Ahlwardt's
_Bemerkungen ueber die Aechtheit der alten Arabischen Gedichte_
(Greifswald, 1872), which has supplied materials for the present sketch.

[261] _Aghání_, v, 172, l. 16 sqq.

[262] This view, however, is in accordance neither with the historical
facts nor with the public opinion of the Pre-islamic Arabs (see Nöldeke,
_Die Semitischen Sprachen_, p. 47).

[263] See Wellhausen, _Reste Arab. Heidentums_ (2nd ed.), p. 88 seq.

[264] _Ḥamása_, 506.

[265] _Ibid._, 237.

[266] _Díwán_ of Imru’u ’l-Qays, ed. by De Slane, p. 22 of the Arabic
text, l. 17 sqq. = No. 52, ll. 57-59 (p. 154) in Ahlwardt's _Divans of
the Six Poets_. With the last line, however, _cf._ the words of Qays b.
al-Khaṭím on accomplishing his vengeance: "_When this death comes,
there will not be found any need of my soul that I have not satisfied_"
(_Ḥamása_, 87).

[267] _Aghání_, ii, 18, l. 23 sqq.

[268] _Aghání_, ii, 34, l. 22 sqq.

[269] See Von Kremer, _Ueber die Gedichte des Labyd_ in _S.B.W.A._,
_Phil.-Hist. Klasse_ (Vienna, 1881), vol. 98, p. 555 sqq. Sir Charles
Lyall, _Ancient Arabian Poetry_, pp. 92 and 119. Wellhausen, _Reste
Arabischen Heidentums_ (2nd ed.), p. 224 sqq.

[270] I prefer to retain the customary spelling instead of Qur’án, as it
is correctly transliterated by scholars. Arabic words naturalised in
English, like Koran, Caliph, Vizier, &c., require no apology.

[271] Muir's _Life of Mahomet_, Introduction, p. 2 seq. I may as well
say at once that I entirely disagree with the view suggested in this
passage that Muḥammad did not believe himself to be inspired.

[272] The above details are taken from the _Fihrist_, ed. by G. Fluegel,
p. 24, l. 14 sqq.

[273] Muir, _op. cit._, Introduction, p. 14.

[274] With the exception of the Opening Súra (_al-Fátiḥa_), which is
a short prayer.

[275] Sprenger, _Ueber das Traditionswesen bei den Arabern_, _Z.D.M.G._,
vol. x, p. 2.

[276] Quoted by Sprenger, _loc. cit._, p. 1.

[277] Quoted by Nöldeke in the Introduction to his _Geschichte des
Qorâns_, p 22.

[278] See especially pp. 28-130.

[279] _Muhamm. Studien_, Part II, p. 48 seq.

[280] The reader may consult Muir's Introduction to his _Life of
Mahomet_, pp. 28-87.

[281] Ibn Hishám, p. 105, l. 9 sqq.

[282] This legend seems to have arisen out of a literal interpretation
of Koran, xciv, 1, "_Did we not open thy breast?_"--_i.e._, give thee
comfort or enlightenment.

[283] This name, which may signify 'Baptists,' was applied by the
heathen Arabs to Muḥammad and his followers, probably in consequence
of the ceremonial ablutions which are incumbent upon every Moslem before
the five daily prayers (see Wellhausen, _Reste Arab. Heid._, p. 237).

[284] Sir Charles Lyall, _The Words 'Ḥaníf' and 'Muslim,'_ _J.R.A.S._
for 1903, p. 772. The original meaning of _ḥaníf_ is no longer
traceable, but it may be connected with the Hebrew _ḥánéf_,
'profane.' In the Koran it generally refers to the religion of Abraham,
and sometimes appears to be nearly synonymous with _Muslim_. Further
information concerning the Ḥanífs will be found in Sir Charles
Lyall's article cited above; Sprenger, _Das Leben und die Lehre des
Moḥammed_, vol. i, pp. 45-134; Wellhausen, _Reste Arab. Heid._, p.
238 sqq.; Caetani, _Annali dell' Islam_, vol. i, pp. 181-192.

[285] Ibn Hishám, p. 143, l. 6 sqq.

[286] _Aghání_, iii, 187, l. 17 sqq.

[287] See p. 69 _supra_.

[288] Tradition associates him especially with Waraqa, who was a cousin
of his first wife, Khadíja, and is said to have hailed him as a prophet
while Muḥammad himself was still hesitating (Ibn Hishám, p. 153, l.
14 sqq.).

[289] This is the celebrated 'Night of Power' (_Laylatu ’l-Qadr_)
mentioned in the Koran, xcvii, 1.

[290] The Holy Ghost (_Rúḥu’l-Quds_), for whom in the Medína Súras
Gabriel (Jibríl) is substituted.

[291] But another version (Ibn Hishám, p. 152, l. 9 sqq.) represents
Muḥammad as replying to the Angel, "What am I to read?" (_má aqra’u_
or _má dhá aqra’u_). Professor Bevan has pointed out to me that the
tradition in this form bears a curious resemblance, which can hardly be
accidental, to the words of Isaiah xl. 6: "The voice said, Cry. And he
said, What shall I cry?" The question whether the Prophet could read and
write is discussed by Nöldeke (_Geschichte des Qorâns_, p. 7 sqq.), who
leaves it undecided. According to Nöldeke (_loc. cit._, p. 10), the
epithet _ummí_, which is applied to Muḥammad in the Koran, and is
commonly rendered by 'illiterate,' does not signify that he was ignorant
of reading and writing, but only that he was unacquainted with the
ancient Scriptures; _cf._ 'Gentile.' However this may be, it appears
that he wished to pass for illiterate, with the object of confirming the
belief in his inspiration: "_Thou_" (Muḥammad) "_didst not use to
read any book before this_" (the Koran) "_nor to write it with thy right
hand; else the liars would have doubted_" (Koran, xxix, 47).

[292] The meaning of these words (_iqra’ bismi rabbika_) is disputed.
Others translate, "Preach in the name of thy Lord" (Nöldeke), or
"Proclaim the name of thy Lord" (Hirschfeld). I see no sufficient
grounds for abandoning the traditional interpretation supported by
verses 4 and 5. Muḥammad dreamed that he was commanded to read the
Word of God inscribed in the Heavenly Book which is the source of all

[293] Others render, "who taught (the use of) the Pen."

[294] This account of Muḥammad's earliest vision (Bukhárí, ed. by
Krehl, vol. iii, p. 380, l. 2 sqq.) is derived from ‘A’isha, his
favourite wife, whom he married after the death of Khadíja.

[295] Ibn Hishám, p. 152, l. 9 sqq.

[296] See p. 72 _supra_.

[297] This interval is known as the Fatra.

[298] Literally, 'warn.'

[299] 'The abomination' (_al-rujz_) probably refers to idolatry.

[300] Literally, "The Last State shall be better for thee than the
First," referring either to Muḥammad's recompense in the next world
or to the ultimate triumph of his cause in this world.

[301] _Islám_ is a verbal noun formed from _Aslama_, which means 'to
surrender' and, in a religious sense, 'to surrender one's self to the
will of God.' The participle, _Muslim_ (Moslem), denotes one who thus
surrenders himself.

[302] Sprenger, _Leben des Mohammad_, vol. i, p. 356.

[303] It must be remembered that this branch of Muḥammadan tradition
derives from the pietists of the first century after the Flight, who
were profoundly dissatisfied with the reigning dynasty (the Umayyads),
and revenged themselves by painting the behaviour of the Meccan
ancestors of the Umayyads towards Muḥammad in the blackest colours
possible. The facts tell another story. It is significant that hardly
any case of real persecution is mentioned in the Koran. Muḥammad was
allowed to remain at Mecca and to carry on, during many years, a
religious propaganda which his fellow-citizens, with few exceptions,
regarded as detestable and dangerous. We may well wonder at the
moderation of the Quraysh, which, however, was not so much deliberate
policy as the result of their indifference to religion and of
Muḥammad's failure to make appreciable headway in Mecca.

[304] Ibn Hishám, p. 168, l. 9. sqq.

[305] At this time Muḥammad believed the doctrines of Islam and
Christianity to be essentially the same.

[306] Ṭabarí, i, 1180, 8 sqq. _Cf._ Caetani, _Annali dell' Islam_,
vol. i, p. 267 sqq.

[307] Muir, _Life of Mahomet_, vol. ii, p. 151.

[308] We have seen (p. 91 _supra_) that the heathen Arabs disliked
female offspring, yet they called their three principal deities the
daughters of Allah.

[309] It is related by Ibn Isḥáq (Ṭabarí, i, 1192, 4 sqq.). In his
learned work, _Annali dell' Islam_, of which the first volume appeared
in 1905, Prince Caetani impugns the authenticity of the tradition and
criticises the narrative in detail (p. 279 sqq.), but his arguments do
not touch the main question. As Muir says, "it is hardly possible to
conceive how the tale, if not founded in truth, could ever have been

[310] The Meccan view of Muḥammad's action may be gathered from the
words uttered by Abú Jahl on the field of Badr--"O God, bring woe upon
him who more than any of us hath severed the ties of kinship and dealt
dishonourably!" (Ṭabarí, i, 1322, l. 8 seq.). Alluding to the Moslems
who abandoned their native city and fled with the Prophet to Medína, a
Meccan poet exclaims (Ibn Hishám, p. 519, ll. 3-5):--

   _They_ (the Quraysh slain at Badr) _fell in honour. They
   did not sell their kinsmen for strangers living in a far
   land and of remote lineage;_

   _Unlike you, who have made friends of Ghassán_ (the people
   of Medína), _taking them instead of us--O, what a shameful

   _Tis an impiety and a manifest crime and a cutting of all
   ties of blood: your iniquity therein is discerned by men of
   judgment and understanding._

[311] _Súra_ is properly a row of stones or bricks in a wall.

[312] See p. 74 _supra_.

[313] Koran, lxix, 41.

[314] Nöldeke, _Geschichte des Qorâns_, p. 56.

[315] _I.e._, what it has done or left undone.

[316] The Last Judgment.

[317] Moslems believe that every man is attended by two Recording Angels
who write down his good and evil actions.

[318] This is generally supposed to refer to the persecution of the
Christians of Najrán by Dhú Nuwás (see p. 26 _supra_). Geiger takes it
as an allusion to the three men who were cast into the fiery furnace
(Daniel, ch. iii).

[319] See above, p. 3.

[320] According to Muḥammadan belief, the archetype of the Koran and
of all other Revelations is written on the Guarded Table (_al-Lawḥ
al-Maḥfúẓ_) in heaven.

[321] Koran, xvii, 69.

[322] See, for example, the passages translated by Lane in his
_Selections from the Kur-án_ (London, 1843), pp. 100-113.

[323] _Ikhláṣ_ means 'purifying one's self of belief in any god
except Allah.'

[324] The Prophet's confession of his inability to perform miracles did
not deter his followers from inventing them after his death. Thus it
was said that he caused the infidels to see "the moon cloven asunder"
(Koran, liv, 1), though, as is plain from the context, these words refer
to one of the signs of the Day of Judgment.

[325] I take this opportunity of calling the reader's attention to a
most interesting article by my friend and colleague, Professor A. A.
Bevan, entitled _The Beliefs of Early Mohammedans respecting a Future
Existence_ (_Journal of Theological Studies_, October, 1904, p. 20
sqq.), where the whole subject is fully discussed.

[326] Shaddád b. al-Aswad al-Laythí, quoted in the _Risálatu ’l-Ghufrán_
of Abu ’l-‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí (see my article in the _J.R.A.S._ for 1902,
pp. 94 and 818); _cf._ Ibn Hishám, p. 530, last line. Ibn (Abí) Kabsha
was a nickname derisively applied to Muḥammad. _Ṣadá_ and _háma_
refer to the death-bird which was popularly supposed to utter its shriek
from the skull (_háma_) of the dead, and both words may be rendered by
'soul' or 'wraith.'

[327] Nöldeke, _Geschichte des Qorâns_, p. 78.

[328] _Cf._ also Koran, xviii, 45-47; xx, 102 sqq.; xxxix, 67 sqq.;
lxix, 13-37.

[329] The famous freethinker, Abu ’l-‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí, has cleverly
satirised Muḥammadan notions on this subject in his _Risálatu
’l-Ghufrán_ (_J.R.A.S._ for October, 1900, p. 637 sqq.).

[330] _Journal of Theological Studies_ for October, 1904, p. 22.

[331] Ibn Hishám, p. 411, l. 6 sqq.

[332] _Ibid._, p. 347.

[333] L. Caetani, _Annali dell' Islam_, vol. i, p. 389.

[334] Nöldeke, _Geschichte des Qorâns_, p. 122.

[335] Translated by E. H. Palmer.

[336] Ibn Hishám, p. 341, l. 5.

[337] _Muḥammad's Gemeindeordnung von Medina in Skizzen und
Vorarbeiten_, Heft IV, p. 67 sqq.

[338] Ibn Hishám, p. 763, l. 12.

[339] Koran, ii, 256, translated by E. H. Palmer.

[340] _Muhamm. Studien_, Part I, p. 12.

[341] See Goldziher's introductory chapter entitled _Muruwwa und Dîn_
(_ibid._, pp. 1-39).

[342] Bayḍáwí on Koran, xxii, 11.

[343] _Die Berufung Mohammed's_, by M. J. de Goeje in
_Nöldeke-Festschrift_ (Giessen, 1906), vol. i, p. 5.

[344] _On the _Origin and Import of the Names Muslim and Ḥaníf_
(_J.R.A.S._ for 1903, p. 491)

[345] See T. W. Arnold's _The Preaching of Islam_, p. 23 seq., where
several passages of like import are collected.

[346] Nöldeke, _Sketches from Eastern History_, translated by J. S.
Black, p. 73.

[347] See Professor Browne's _Literary History of Persia_, vol. i, p.
200 sqq.

[348] Ṭabarí, i, 2729, l. 15 sqq.

[349] _Ibid._, i, 2736, l. 5 sqq. The words in italics are quoted from
Koran, xxviii, 26, where they are applied to Moses.

[350] ‘Umar was the first to assume this title (_Amíru ’l-Mu’minín_), by
which the Caliphs after him were generally addressed.

[351] Ṭabarí, i, 2738, 7 sqq.

[352] _Ibid._, i, 2739, 4 sqq.

[353] _Ibid._, i, 2737, 4 sqq.

[354] It is explained that ‘Umar prohibited lamps because rats used to
take the lighted wick and set fire to the house-roofs, which at that
time were made of palm-branches.

[355] Ṭabarí, i, 2742, 13 sqq.

[356] _Ibid._, i, 2745, 15 sqq.

[357] _Ibid._, i, 2747, 7 sqq.

[358] _Ibid._, i, 2740, last line and foll.

[359] _Al-Fakhrí_, ed. by Derenbourg, p. 116, l. 1 to p. 117, l. 3.

[360] Ṭabarí, i, 2751, 9 sqq.

[361] Ibn Khallikán (ed. by Wüstenfeld), No. 68, p. 96, l. 3; De Slane's
translation, vol. i, p. 152.

[362] Mu‘áwiya himself said: "I am the first of the kings" (Ya‘qúbí, ed.
by Houtsma, vol. ii, p. 276, l. 14).

[363] _Al-Fakhrí_, ed. by Derenbourg, p. 145.

[364] Ya‘qúbí, vol. ii, p. 283, l. 8 seq.

[365] Mas‘údí, _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_ (ed. by Barbier de Meynard), vol. v.
p. 77.

[366] Nöldeke's _Delectus_, p. 25, l. 3 sqq., omitting l. 8.

[367] The _Continuatio_ of Isidore of Hispalis, § 27, quoted by
Wellhausen, _Das Arabische Reich und sein Sturz_, p. 105.

[368] Ḥamása, 226. The word translated 'throne' is in Arabic _mínbar_,
_i.e._, the pulpit from which the Caliph conducted the public prayers
and addressed the congregation.

[369] Kalb was properly one of the Northern tribes (see Robertson
Smith's _Kinship and Marriage_, 2nd ed., p. 8 seq.--a reference which I
owe to Professor Bevan), but there is evidence that the Kalbites were
regarded as 'Yemenite' or 'Southern' Arabs at an early period of Islam.
_Cf._ Goldziher, _Muhammedanische Studien_, Part I, p. 83, l. 3 sqq.

[370] _Muhammedanische Studien_, i, 78 sqq.

[371] Qaḥṭán is the legendary ancestor of the Southern Arabs.

[372] _Aghání_, xiii, 51, cited by Goldziher, _ibid._, p. 82.

[373] A verse of the poet Suḥaym b. Wathíl.

[374] The _Kámil_ of al-Mubarrad, ed. by W. Wright, p. 215, l. 14 sqq.

[375] Ibn Qutayba, _Kitábu ’l-Ma‘árif_, p. 202.

[376] _Al-Fakhrí_, p. 173; Ibnu ’l-Athír, ed. by Tornberg, v, 5.

[377] _Ibid._, p. 174. _Cf._ Mas‘údi, _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_, v, 412.

[378] His mother, Umm ‘Áṣim, was a granddaughter of ‘Umar I.

[379] Mas‘údí, _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_, v, 419 seq.

[380] Ibnu ’l-Athír, ed. by Tornberg, v, 46. _Cf._ _Agání_, xx, p. 119,
l. 23. ‘Umar made an exception, as Professor Bevan reminds me, in favour
of the poet Jarír. See Brockelmann's _Gesch. der Arab. Litteratur_, vol.
i, p. 57.

[381] The exhaustive researches of Wellhausen, _Das Arabische Reich und
sein Sturz_ (pp. 169-192) have set this complicated subject in a new
light. He contends that ‘Umar's reform was not based on purely ideal
grounds, but was demanded by the necessities of the case, and that, so
far from introducing disorder into the finances, his measures were
designed to remedy the confusion which already existed.

[382] Mas‘údí, _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_, v, 479.

[383] The Arabic text and literal translation of these verses will be
found in my article on Abu ’l-‘Alá's _Risálatu ’l-Ghufrán_ (_J.R.A.S._
for 1902, pp. 829 and 342).

[384] Wellhausen, _Das Arabische Reich und sein Sturz_, p. 38.

[385] _I.e._, the main body of Moslems--_Sunnís_, followers of the
_Sunna_, as they were afterwards called--who were neither Shí‘ites nor
Khárijites, but held (1) that the Caliph must be elected by the Moslem
community, and (2) that he must be a member of Quraysh, the Prophet's
tribe. All these parties arose out of the struggle between ‘Alí and
Mu‘áwiya, and their original difference turned solely on the question of
the Caliphate.

[386] Brünnow, _Die Charidschiten unter den ersten Omayyaden_ (Leiden,
1884), p. 28. It is by no means certain, however, that the Khárijites
called themselves by this name. In any case, the term implies
_secession_ (_khurúj_) from the Moslem community, and may be rendered by
'Seceder' or 'Nonconformist.'

[387] _Cf._ Koran, ix, 112.

[388] Brünnow, _op. cit._, p. 8.

[389] Wellhausen, _Die religiös-politischen Oppositionsparteien im alten
Islam_ (_Abhandlungen der Königl. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu
Göttingen_, _Phil.-Hist. Klasse_, 1901), p. 8 sqq. The writer argues
against Brünnow that the oldest Khárijites were not true Bedouins
(_A‘rábí_), and were, in fact, even further removed than the rest of the
military colonists of Kúfa and Baṣra from their Bedouin traditions.
He points out that the extreme piety of the Readers--their constant
prayers, vigils, and repetitions of the Koran--exactly agrees with what
is related of the Khárijites, and is described in similar language.
Moreover, among the oldest Khárijites we find mention made of a company
clad in long cloaks (_baránis_, pl. of _burnus_), which were at that
time a special mark of asceticism. Finally, the earliest authority (Abú
Mikhnaf in Ṭabarí, i, 3330, l. 6 sqq.) regards the Khárijites as an
offshoot from the Readers, and names individual Readers who afterwards
became rabid Khárijites.

[390] Later, when many non-Arab Moslems joined the Khárijite ranks the
field of choice was extended so as to include foreigners and even

[391] Ṭabarí, ii, 40, 13 sqq.

[392] Shahrastání, ed. by Cureton, Part I, p. 88. l. 12.

[393] _Ibid._, p. 86, l. 3 from foot.

[394] Ṭabarí, ii, 36, ll. 7, 8, 11-16.

[395] _Ḥamása_, 44.

[396] Ibn Khallikán, ed. by Wüstenfeld, No. 555, p. 55, l. 4 seq.; De
Slane's translation, vol. ii, p. 523.

[397] Dozy, _Essai sur l'histoire de l'Islamisme_ (French translation by
Victor Chauvin), p. 219 sqq.

[398] Wellhausen thinks that the dogmatics of the Shí‘ites are derived
from Jewish rather than from Persian sources. See his account of the
Saba’ites in his most instructive paper, to which I have already
referred, _Die religiös-politischen Oppositionsparteien im alten Islam_
(_Abh. der König. Ges. der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen_, _Phil.-Hist.
Klasse_, 1901), p. 89 sqq.

[399] Ṭabarí, i, 2942, 2.

[400] "_Verily, He who hath ordained the Koran for thee_ (_i.e._, for
Muḥammad) _will bring thee back to a place of return_" (_i.e._, to
Mecca). The ambiguity of the word meaning 'place of return' (_ma‘ád_)
gave some colour to Ibn Sabá's contention that it alluded to the return
of Muḥammad at the end of the world. The descent of Jesus on earth is
reckoned by Moslems among the greater signs which will precede the

[401] This is a Jewish idea. ‘Alí stands in the same relation to
Muḥammad as Aaron to Moses.

[402] Ṭabarí, _loc. cit._

[403] Shahrastání, ed. by Cureton, p. 132, l. 15.

[404] _Aghání_, viii, 32, l. 17 sqq. The three sons of ‘Alí are Ḥasan,
Ḥusayn, and Muḥammad Ibnu ’l-Ḥanafiyya.

[405] Concerning the origin of these sects see Professor Browne's _Lit.
Hist. of Persia_, vol. i, p. 295 seq.

[406] See Darmesteter's interesting essay, _Le Mahdi depuis les origines
de l'Islam jusqu'à nos jours_ (Paris, 1885). The subject is treated more
scientifically by Snouck Hurgronje in his paper _Der Mahdi_, reprinted
from the _Revue coloniale internationale_ (1886).

[407] _Ṣiddíq_ means 'veracious.' Professor Bevan remarks that in
this root the notion of 'veracity' easily passes into that of
'endurance,' 'fortitude.'

[408] Ṭabarí, ii, 546. These 'Penitents' were free Arabs of Kúfa, a
fact which, as Wellhausen has noticed, would seem to indicate that the
_ta‘ziya_ is Semitic in origin.

[409] Wellhausen, _Die religiös-politischen Oppositionsparteien_, p. 79.

[410] Ṭabarí, ii, 650, l. 7 sqq.

[411] Shahrastání, Haarbrücker's translation, Part I, p. 169.

[412] Von Kremer, _Culturgeschicht_. _Streifzüge_, p. 2 sqq.

[413] The best account of the early Murjites that has hitherto appeared
is contained in a paper by Van Vloten, entitled _Irdjâ_ (_Z.D.M.G._,
vol. 45, p. 161 sqq.). The reader may also consult Shahrastání,
Haarbrücker's trans., Part I, p. 156 sqq.; Goldziher, _Muhammedanische
Studien_, Part II, p. 89 sqq.; Van Vloten, _La domination Arabe_, p. 31

[414] Van Vloten thinks that in the name 'Murjite' (_murji’_) there is
an allusion to Koran, ix, 107: "_And others are remanded (murjawna)
until God shall decree; whether He shall punish them or take pity on
them--for God is knowing and wise._"

[415] _Cf._ the poem of Thábit Quṭna (_Z.D.M.G._, _loc. cit._, p.
162), which states the whole Murjite doctrine in popular form. The
author, who was himself a Murjite, lived in Khurásán during the latter
half of the first century A.H.

[416] Van Vloten, _La domination Arabe_, p. 29 sqq.

[417] Ibn Ḥazm, cited in _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 45, p. 169, n. 7. Jahm (†
about 747 A.D.) was a Persian, as might be inferred from the boldness of
his speculations.

[418] Ḥasan himself inclined for a time to the doctrine of free-will,
but afterwards gave it up (Ibn Qutayba, _Kitábu ’l-Ma‘árif_, p. 225). He
is said to have held that everything happens by fate, except sin
(_Al-Mu‘tazilah_, ed. by T. W. Arnold, p. 12, l. 3 from foot). See,
however, Shahrastání, Haarbrücker's trans., Part I, p. 46.

[419] Koran, lxxiv, 41.

[420] _Ibid._, xli, 46.

[421] _Kitábu ’l-Ma‘árif_, p. 301. Those who held the doctrine of
free-will were called the Qadarites (_al-Qadariyya_), from _qadar_
(power), which may denote (1) the power of God to determine human
actions, and (2) the power of man to determine his own actions. Their
opponents asserted that men act under compulsion (_jabr_); hence they
were called the Jabarites (_al-Jabariyya_).

[422] As regards Ghaylán see _Al-Mu‘tazilah_, ed. by T. W. Arnold, p.
15, l. 16 sqq.

[423] Ibn Khallikán, De Slane's translation, vol. iii, p. 642;
Shahrastání, trans. by Haarbrücker, Part I, p. 44.

[424] Sha‘rání, _Lawáqihu ’l-Anwár_ (Cairo, 1299 A.H.), p. 31.

[425] _Ibid._

[426] See Von Kremer, _Herrschende Ideen_, p. 52 sqq.; Goldziher,
_Materialien zur Entwickelungsgesch. des Súfismus_ (_Vienna Oriental
Journal_, vol. 13, p. 35 sqq.).

[427] Sha‘rání, _Lawáqiḥ_, p. 38.

[428] Qushayrí's _Risála_ (1287 A.H.), p. 77, l. 10.

[429] _Tadhkiratu ’l-Awliyá_ of Farídu’ddín ‘Aṭṭár, Part I, p. 37,
l. 8 of my edition.

[430] _Kámil_ (ed. by Wright), p. 57, l. 16.

[431] The point of this metaphor lies in the fact that Arab horses were
put on short commons during the period of training, which usually began
forty days before the race.

[432] _Kámil_, p. 57, last line.

[433] _Kámil_, p. 58, l. 14.

[434] _Ibid._, p. 67, l. 9.

[435] _Ibid._, p. 91, l. 14.

[436] _Ibid._, p. 120, l. 4.

[437] Qushayrí's _Risála_, p. 63, last line.

[438] It is noteworthy that Qushayrí († 1073 A.D.), one of the oldest
authorities on Ṣúfiism, does not include Ḥasan among the Ṣúfí
Shaykhs whose biographies are given in the _Risála_ (pp. 8-35), and
hardly mentions him above half a dozen times in the course of his work.
The sayings of Ḥasan which he cites are of the same character as
those preserved in the _Kámil_.

[439] See Nöldeke's article, _'Ṣūfī_,' in _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 48,
p. 45.

[440] An allusion to _safá_ occurs in thirteen out of the seventy
definitions of Ṣúfí and Ṣúfiism (_Taṣawwuf_) which are
contained in the _Tadhkiratu ’l-Awliyá_, or 'Memoirs of the Saints,' of
the well-known Persian mystic, Farídu’ddín ‘Aṭṭár († _circa_ 1230
A.D.), whereas _ṣúf_ is mentioned only twice.

[441] Said by Bishr al-Ḥáfí (the bare-footed), who died in 841-842

[442] Said by Junayd of Baghdád († 909-910 A.D.), one of the most
celebrated Ṣúfí Shaykhs.

[443] Ibn Khaldún's _Muqaddima_ (Beyrout, 1900), p. 467 = vol. iii, p.
85 seq. of the French translation by De Slane. The same things are said
at greater length by Suhrawardí in his _‘Awárifu ’l-Ma‘árif_ (printed on
the margin of Ghazálí's _Iḥyá_, Cairo, 1289 A.H.), vol. i, p. 172 _et
seqq._ _Cf._ also the passage from Qushayrí translated by Professor E.
G. Browne on pp. 297-298 of vol. i. of his _Literary History of Persia_.

[444] Suhrawardí, _loc. cit._, p. 136 seq.

[445] _Loc. cit._, p. 145.

[446] _I.e._, he yields himself unreservedly to the spiritual 'states'
(_aḥwál_) which pass over him, according as God wills.

[447] Possibly Ibráhím was one of the _Shikaftiyya_ or 'Cave-dwellers'
of Khurásán (_shikaft_ means 'cave' in Persian), whom the people of
Syria called _al-Jú‘íyya_, _i.e._, 'the Fasters.' See Suhrawardí, _loc.
cit._, p. 171.

[448] Ghazálí, _Iḥyá_ (Cairo, 1289 A.H.), vol. iv, p. 298.

[449] Brockelmann, _Gesch. d. Arab. Litteratur_, vol. i, p. 45.

[450] _E.g._, Ma‘bad, Gharíḍ, Ibn Surayj, Ṭuways, and Ibn ‘Á’isha.

[451] _Kámil_ of Mubarrad, p. 570 sqq.

[452] _Aghání_, i, 43, l. 15 sqq.; Nöldeke's _Delectus_, p. 17, last
line and foll.

[453] Nöldeke's _Delectus_, p. 9, l. 11 sqq., omitting l. 13.

[454] An edition of the _Naqá’iḍ_ by Professor A. A. Bevan has been
published at Leyden.

[455] _Aghání_, vii, 55, l. 12 sqq.

[456] _Aghání_, vii, 182, l. 23 sqq.

[457] _Ibid._, vii, 183, l. 6 sqq.

[458] _Ibid._, p. 178, l. 1 seq.

[459] _Ibid._, xiii, 148, l. 23.

[460] _Encomium Omayadarum_, ed. by Houtsma (Leyden, 1878).

[461] _Aghání_, vii, 172, l. 27 sqq.

[462] _Ibid._, p. 179, l. 25 sqq.

[463] _Ibid._, p. 178, l. 26 seq.

[464] _Aghání_, xix, 34, l. 18.

[465] _Kámil_ of Mubarrad, p. 70, l. 17 sqq.

[466] Al-Kusa‘í broke an excellent bow which he had made for himself.
See _The Assemblies of Ḥarírí_, trans. by Chenery, p. 351. Professor
Bevan remarks that this half-verse is an almost verbal citation from a
verse ascribed to ‘Adí b. Maríná of Ḥíra, an enemy of ‘Adí b. Zayd
the poet (_Aghání_, ii, 24, l. 5).

[467] Ibn Khallikán (ed. by Wüstenfeld), No. 129; De Slane's translation
vol. i, p. 298.

[468] _Aghání_, iii, 23, l. 13.

[469] _Aghání_, vii, 49, l. 8 sqq.

[470] The following account is mainly derived from Goldziher's _Muhamm.
Studien_, Part II, p. 203 sqq.

[471] _Cf._ Browne's _Lit. Hist. of Persia_, vol. i, p. 230.

[472] Nöldeke, _Sketches from Eastern History_, tr. by J. S. Black, p.
108 seq.

[473] Wellhausen, _Das Arabische Reich_, p. 307.

[474] _Recherches sur la domination Arabe_, p. 46 sqq.

[475] Dínawarí, ed. by Guirgass, p. 356.

[476] _Ibid._, p. 360, l. 15. The whole poem has been translated by
Professor Browne in his _Literary History of Persia_, vol. i, p. 242.

[477] _Sketches from Eastern History_, p. 111.

[478] Professor Bevan, to whose kindness I owe the following
observations, points out that this translation of _al-Saffáḥ_,
although it has been generally adopted by European scholars, is very
doubtful. According to Professor De Goeje, _al-Saffáḥ_ means 'the
munificent' (literally, 'pouring out' gifts, &c.). In any case it is
important to notice that the name was given to certain Pre-islamic
chieftains. Thus Salama b. Khálid, who commanded the Banú Taghlib at the
first battle of al-Kuláb (Ibnu ’l-Athír, ed. by Tornberg, vol. i, p.
406, last line), is said to have been called _al-Saffáḥ_ because he
'emptied out' the skin bottles (_mazád_) of his army before a battle
(Ibn Durayd, ed. by Wüstenfeld, p. 203, l. 16); and we find mention of a
poet named al-Saffáḥ b. ‘Abd Manát (_ibid._, p. 277, penult. line).

[479] See p. 205.

[480] G. Le Strange, _Baghdad under the Abbasid Caliphate_, p. 4 seq.

[481] Professor De Goeje has kindly given me the following
references:--Ṭabarí, ii, 78, l. 10, where Ziyád is called the _Wazír_
of Mu‘áwiya; Ibn Sa‘d, iii, 121, l. 6 (Abú Bakr the _Wazír_ of the
Prophet). The word occurs in Pre-islamic poetry (Ibn Qutayba, _K.
al-Shi‘r wa-’l-Shu‘ará_, p. 414, l. 1). Professor De Goeje adds that the
‘Abbásid Caliphs gave the name _Wazír_ as title to the minister who was
formerly called _Kátib_ (Secretary). Thus it would seem that the Arabic
_Wazír_ (literally 'burden-bearer'), who was at first merely a 'helper'
or 'henchman,' afterwards became the representative and successor of the
_Dapír_ (official scribe or secretary) of the Sásánian kings.

[482] This division is convenient, and may be justified on general
grounds. In a strictly political sense, the period of decline begins
thirty years earlier with the Caliphate of Ma’mún (813-833 A.D.). The
historian Abu ’l-Maḥásin († 1469 A.D.) dates the decline of the
Caliphate from the accession of Muktafí in 902 A.D. (_al-Nujúm
al-Záhira_, ed. by Juynboll, vol. ii, p. 134).

[483] See Nöldeke's essay, _Caliph Manṣur_, in his _Sketches from
Eastern History_, trans. by J. S. Black, p. 107 sqq.

[484] Professor Browne has given an interesting account of these
ultra-Shí‘ite insurgents in his _Lit. Hist. of Persia_, vol. i, ch. ix.

[485] Ṭabarí, iii, 404, l. 5 sqq.

[486] Ṭabarí, iii, 406, l. 1 sqq.

[487] _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_, ed. by Barbier de Meynard, vol. iv, p. 47 seq.

[488] When the Caliph Hádí wished to proclaim his son Ja‘far
heir-apparent instead of Hárún, Yaḥyá pointed out the danger of this
course and dissuaded him (_al-Fakhrí_, ed. by Derenbourg, p. 281).

[489] Ibn Khallikán, De Slane's translation, vol. iv, p. 105.

[490] Mas‘údí, _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_, vol. vi, p. 364.

[491] See, for example, _Haroun Alraschid_, by E. H. Palmer, in the New
Plutarch Series, p. 81 sqq.

[492] _Cf._ A. Müller, _Der Islam_, vol. i, p. 481 seq.

[493] Ibn Khallikán, De Slane's translation, vol. iv, p. 112.

[494] Literally, "No father to your father!" a common form of

[495] Green was the party colour of the ‘Alids, black of the ‘Abbásids.

[496] _Al-Nujúm al-Záhira_, ed. by Juynboll, vol. i, p. 631.

[497] The court remained at Sámarrá for fifty-six years (836-892 A.D.).
The official spelling of Sámarrá was _Surra-man-ra’á_, which may be
freely rendered 'The Spectator's Joy.'

[498] My account of these dynasties is necessarily of the briefest and
barest character. The reader will find copious details concerning most
of them in Professor Browne's _Literary History of Persia_: Ṣaffárids
and Sámánids in vol. i, p. 346 sqq.; Fáṭimids in vol. i, pp. 391-400
and vol. ii, p. 196 sqq.; Ghaznevids in vol. ii, chap. ii; and Seljúqs,
_ibid._, chaps. iii to v.

[499] Ibn Abí Usaybi‘a, _Ṭabaqátu ’l-Atibbá_, ed. by A. Müller, vol.
ii, p. 4, l. 4 sqq. Avicenna was at this time scarcely eighteen years of

[500] ‘Abdu ’l-Hamíd flourished in the latter days of the Umayyad
dynasty. See Ibn Khallikán, De Slane's translation, vol. ii, p. 173,
Mas‘údí, _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_, vol. vi, p. 81.

[501] See Professor Margoliouth's Introduction to the _Letters of ‘Abu
’l-‘Alá al-Ma‘arrí_, p. xxiv.

[502] Abu ’l-Mahásin, _al-Nujúm al-Záhira_, ed. by Juynboll, vol. ii, p.
333. The original Ráfiḍites were those schismatics who rejected
(_rafaḍa_) the Caliphs Abú Bakr and ‘Umar, but the term is generally
used as synonymous with Shí‘ite.

[503] Mutanabbí, ed. by Dieterici, p. 148, last line and foll.

[504] D. B. Macdonald, _Muslim Theology_, p. 43 seq.

[505] I regret that lack of space compels me to omit the further history
of the Fáṭimids. Readers who desire information on this subject may
consult Stanley Lane-Poole's _History of Egypt in the Middle Ages_;
Wüstenfeld's _Geschichte der Faṭimiden-Chalifen_ (Göttingen, 1881);
and Professor Browne's _Lit. Hist. of Persia_, vol. ii, p. 196 sqq.

[506] Ibn Khallikán, De Slane's translation, vol. iv, p. 441.

[507] See the Introduction.

[508] Ibn Khaldún, _Muqaddima_ (Beyrout, 1900), p. 543 seq.--De Slane,
_Prolegomena_, vol. iii, p. 296 sqq.

[509] _Cf._ Goldziher, _Muhamm. Studien_, Part I, p. 114 seq.

[510] Read _mashárátí ’l-buqúl_ (beds of vegetables), not _mushárát_ as
my rendering implies. The change makes little difference to the sense,
but _mashárat_, being an Aramaic word, is peculiarly appropriate here.

[511] _Aghání_, xii, 177, l. 5 sqq; Von Kremer, _Culturgesch.
Streifzüge_, p. 32. These lines are aimed, as has been remarked by S.
Khuda Bukhsh (_Contributions to the History of Islamic Civilisation_,
Calcutta, 1905, p. 92), against Nabatæans who falsely claimed to be

[512] The name is derived from Koran, xlix, 13: "_O Men, We have created
you of a male and a female and have made you into peoples_ (shu‘úban)
_and tribes, that ye might know one another. Verily the noblest of you
in the sight of God are they that do most fear Him._" Thus the
designation 'Shu‘úbite' emphasises the fact that according to
Muḥammad's teaching the Arab Moslems are no better than their
non-Arab brethren.

[513] _Muhamm. Studien_, Part I, p. 147 sqq.

[514] The term _Falsafa_ properly includes Logic, Metaphysics,
Mathematics, Medicine, and the Natural Sciences.

[515] Here we might add the various branches of Mathematics, such as
Arithmetic, Algebra, Mechanics, &c.

[516] ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥman Jámí († 1492 A.D.).

[517] I am deeply indebted in the following pages to Goldziher's essay
entitled _Alte und Neue Poesie im Urtheile der Arabischen Kritiker_ in
his _Abhand. zur Arab. Philologie_, Part I, pp. 122-174.

[518] _Cf._ the remark made by Abú ‘Amr b. al-‘Alá about the poet
Akhṭal (p. 242 _supra_).

[519] _Diwan des Abu Nowas, Die Weinlieder_, ed. by Ahlwardt, No. 10,
vv. 1-5.

[520] Ed. by De Goeje, p. 5, ll. 5-15.

[521] _Cf._ the story told of Abú Tammám by Ibn Khallikán (De Slane's
translation, vol. i, p. 350 seq.).

[522] See Nöldeke, _Beiträge_, p. 4.

[523] Ibn Khaldún, _Muqaddima_ (Beyrout, 1900), p. 573, l. 21 seq.;
_Prolegomena_ of Ibn K., translated by De Slane, vol. iii, p. 380.

[524] See Professor Browne's _Literary History of Persia_, vol. ii, p.
14 sqq.

[525] _Aghání_, xii, 80, l. 3.

[526] Freytag, _Arabum Proverbia_, vol. i, p. 46 seq., where the reader
will find the Arabic text of the verses translated here. Rückert has
given a German rendering of the same verses in his _Hamâsa_, vol. i, p.
311. A fuller text of the poem occurs in _Aghání_, xii, 107 seq.

[527] _Díwán_, ed. by Ahlwardt, _Die Weinlieder_, No. 26, v. 4.

[528] Ibn Qutayba, _K. al-Shi‘r wa-’l-Shu‘ará_, p. 502, l. 13.

[529] For the famous ascetic, Ḥasan of Baṣra, see pp. 225-227.
Qatáda was a learned divine, also of Baṣra and contemporary with
Ḥasan. He died in 735 A.D.

[530] These verses are quoted by Ibn Qutayba, _op. cit._, p. 507 seq.
'The Scripture' (_al-maṣḥaf_) is of course the Koran.

[531] _Die Weinlieder_, ed. by Ahlwardt, No. 47.

[532] _Ibid._, No. 29, vv. 1-3.

[533] Ibn Khallikán, ed. by Wüstenfeld, No. 169, p. 100; De Slane's
translation, vol. i, p. 393.

[534] _Cf._ _Díwán_ (ed. of Beyrout, 1886), p. 279, l. 9, where he
reproaches one of his former friends who deserted him because, in his
own words, "I adopted the garb of a dervish" (_ṣirtu fi ziyyi
miskíni_). Others attribute his conversion to disgust with the
immorality and profanity of the court-poets amongst whom he lived.

[535] Possibly he alludes to these aspersions in the verse (_ibid._, p.
153, l. 10): "_Men have become corrupted, and if they see any one who is
sound in his religion, they call him a heretic_" (_mubtadi‘_).

[536] Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya declares that knowledge is derived from three
sources, logical reasoning (_qiyás_), examination (_‘iyár_), and oral
tradition (_samá‘_). See his _Díwán_, p. 158, l. 11.

[537] _Cf._ _Mání, seine Lehre und seine Schriften_, by G. Flügel, p.
281, l. 3 sqq. Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya did not take this extreme view (_Díwán_,
p. 270, l. 3 seq.).

[538] See Shahrastání, Haarbrücker's translation, Part I, p. 181 sqq. It
appears highly improbable that Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya was a Shí‘ite. _Cf._ the
verses (_Díwán_, p. 104, l. 13 seq.), where, speaking of the prophets
and the holy men of ancient Islam, he says:--

  "_Reckon first among them Abú Bakr, the veracious,
    And exclaim 'O ‘Umar!' in the second place of honour.
    And reckon the father of Ḥasan after ‘Uthmán,
    For the merit of them both is recited and celebrated._"

[539] _Aghání_, iii, 128, l. 6 sqq.

[540] _Transactions of the Ninth Congress of Orientalists_, vol. ii. p.

[541] _Díwán_, p. 274, l. 10. _Cf._ the verse (p. 199, penultimate

  "_When I gained contentment, I did not cease (thereafter)
  To be a king, regarding riches as poverty._"

The ascetic "lives the life of a king" (_ibid._, p. 187, l. 5).
Contented men are the noblest of all (p. 148, l. 2). So the great
Persian mystic, Jalálu ’l-Dín Rúmí, says in reference to the perfect
Ṣúfí (_Díván-i Shams-i Tabríz_, No. viii, v. 3 in my edition):
_Mard-i khudá sháh buvad zír-i dalq_, "the man of God is a king 'neath
dervish-cloak;" and eminent spiritualists are frequently described as
"kings of the (mystic) path." I do not deny, however, that this metaphor
may have been originally suggested by the story of Buddha.

[542] _Díwán_, p. 25, l. 3 sqq. Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya took credit to himself
for introducing 'the language of the market-place' into his poetry
(_ibid._ p. 12, l. 3 seq.).

[543] _Díwán_ (Beyrout, 1886), p. 23, l. 13 et seqq.

[544] _Ibid._, p. 51, l. 2.

[545] _Ibid._, p. 132, l. 3.

[546] _Ibid._, p. 46, l. 16.

[547] _Díwán_, p. 260, l. 11 _et seqq._

[548] _Ibid._, p. 295, l. 14 _et seqq._

[549] _Ibid._, p. 287, l. 10 seq.

[550] _Ibid._, p. 119, l. 11.

[551] _Ibid._, p. 259, penultimate line _et seq._

[552] _Ibid._, p. 115, l. 4.

[553] _Díwán_, p. 51, l. 10.

[554] _Ibid._, p. 133, l. 5.

[555] _Ibid._, p. 74, l. 4.

[556] _Ibid._, p. 149, l. 12 seq.

[557] _Ibid._, p. 195, l. 9. _Cf._ p. 243, l. 4 seq.

[558] _Ibid._, p. 274, l. 6.

[559] _Ibid._, p. 262, l. 4.

[560] _Ibid._, p. 346, l. 11. _Cf._ p. 102, l. 11; p. 262, l. 1 seq.; p.
267, l. 7. This verse is taken from Abu ’l-‘Atáhiya's famous didactic
poem composed in rhyming couplets, which is said to have contained 4,000
sentences of morality. Several of these have been translated by Von
Kremer in his _Culturgeschichte des Orients_, vol. ii, p. 374 sqq.

[561] In one of his poems (_Díwán_, p. 160, l. 11), he says that he has
lived ninety years, but if this is not a mere exaggeration, it needs to
be corrected. The words for 'seventy' and 'ninety' are easily confused
in Arabic writing.

[562] Tha‘álibí, _Yatimatu ’l-Dahr_ (Damascus, 1304 A.H.), vol. i, p. 8

[563] See Von Kremer's _Culturgeschichte_, vol. ii, p. 381 sqq.;
Ahlwardt, _Poesie und Poetik der Araber_, p. 37 sqq.; R. Dvorak, _Abú
Firás, ein arabischer Dichter und Held_ (Leyden, 1895).

[564] Mutanabbí, ed. by Dieterici, p. 493. Wáḥidí gives the whole
story in his commentary on this verse.

[565] Mutanabbí, it is said, explained to Sayfu ’l-Dawla that by _surra_
(gladden) he meant _surriyya_; whereupon the good-humoured prince
presented him with a slave-girl.

[566] Literally, "Do not imagine fat in one whose (apparent) fat is
(really) a tumour."

[567] _Díwán_, ed. by Dieterici, pp. 481-484.

[568] The most esteemed commentary is that of Wáḥidí († 1075 A.D.),
which has been published by Fr. Dieterici in his edition of Mutanabbí
(Berlin, 1858-1861).

[569] _Motenebbi, der grösste arabische Dichter_ (Vienna, 1824).

[570] _Abulfedæ Annales Muslemici_ (Hafniæ, 1789, &c.), vol. ii, p. 774.
_Cf._ his notes on Ṭarafa's _Mu‘allaqa_, of which he published an
edition in 1742.

[571] _Chrestomathie Arabe_ (2nd edition), vol. iii, p. 27 sqq. _Journal
des Savans_, January, 1825, p. 24 sqq.

[572] _Commentatio de Motenabbio_ (Bonn, 1824).

[573] _Geschichte der Arabischen Litteratur_ (Weimar, 1898, &c.), vol.
i, p. 86.

[574] I have made free use of Dieterici's excellent work entitled
_Mutanabbi und Seifuddaula aus der Edelperle des Tsaâlibi_ (Leipzig,
1847), which contains on pp. 49-74 an abstract of Tha‘álibí's criticism
in the fifth chapter of the First Part of the _Yatíma_.

[575] Mutanabbí, ed. by Dieterici, p. 182, vv. 3-9, omitting v. 5.

[576] The author of these lines, which are quoted by Ibn Khallikán in
his article on Mutanabbí, is Abu ’l-Qásim b. al-Muẓaffar b. ‘Alí

[577] Mutanabbí, ed. by Dieterici, p. 581, v. 27.

[578] _Ibid._, p. 472, v. 5.

[579] Mutanabbí, ed. by Dieterici, p. 341, v. 8.

[580] Margoliouth's Introduction to the _Letters of Abu ’l-‘Alá_, p.

[581] _Ibid._, p. xxvii seq.

[582] _Luzúmiyyát_ (Cairo, 1891), vol. i, p. 201.

[583] _I.e._, his predecessors of the modern school. Like Mutanabbí, he
ridicules the conventional types (_asálíb_) in which the old poetry is
cast _Cf._ Goldziher, _Abhand. zur Arab. Philologie_, Part I, p. 146 seq.

[584] The proper title is _Luzúmu má lá yalzam_, referring to a
technical difficulty which the poet unnecessarily imposed on himself
with regard to the rhyme.

[585] _Abulfedæ Annales Muslemici_, ed. by Adler (1789-1794), vol. iii,
p. 677.

[586] _Literaturgesch. der Araber_, vol. vi, p. 900 sqq.

[587] _Sitzungsberichte der Philosophisch-Historischen Classe der
Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften_, vol. cxvii, 6th Abhandlung
(Vienna, 1889). Select passages admirably rendered by Von Kremer into
German verse will be found in the _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 29, pp. 304-312; vol.
30, pp. 40-52; vol. 31, pp. 471-483; vol. 38, pp. 499-529.

[588] _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 38, p. 507; Margoliouth, _op. cit._, p. 131, l.
15 of the Arabic text.

[589] _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 29, p. 308.

[590] Margoliouth, _op. cit._, p. 133 of the Arabic text.

[591] This passage occurs in Abu ’l-‘Alá's _Risálatu ’l-Ghufrán_ (see
_infra_), _J.R.A.S._ for 1902, p. 351. _Cf._ the verses translated by
Von Kremer in his essay on Abu ’l-‘Alá, p. 23.

[592] For the term 'Ḥaníf' see p. 149 _supra_. Here it is synonymous
with 'Muslim.'

[593] _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 38, p. 513.

[594] This work, of which only two copies exist in Europe--one at
Constantinople and another in my collection--has been described and
partially translated in the _J.R.A.S._ for 1900, pp. 637-720, and for
1902, pp. 75-101, 337-362, and 813-847.

[595] Margoliouth, _op. cit._, p. 132, last line of the Arabic text.

[596] _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 31, p. 483.

[597] De Gobineau, _Les religions et les philosophies dans l'Asie
centrale_, p. 11 seq.

[598] _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 31, p. 477.

[599] _Ibid._, vol. 29, p. 311.

[600] _Z.D.M.G._ vol. 38, p. 522.

[601] According to De Goeje, _Mémoires sur les Carmathes du Bahrain_, p.
197, n. 1, these lines refer to a prophecy made by the Carmathians that
the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, which took place in 1047 A.D.
would herald the final triumph of the Fáṭimids over the ‘Abbásids.

[602] _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 38, p. 504.

[603] _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 31, p. 474.

[604] _Luzúmiyyát_ (Cairo, 1891), i, 394.

[605] _Ibid._, i, 312.

[606] Von Kremer, _op. cit._, p. 38.

[607] _Safar-náma_, ed. by Schefer, p. 10 seq. = pp. 35-36 of the

[608] _Luzúmiyyát_, ii, 280. The phrase does not mean "I am the child of
my age," but "I live in the present," forgetful of the past and careless
what the future may bring.

[609] See Von Kremer, _op. cit._, p. 46 sqq.

[610] See the article on Ṭughrá’í in Ibn Khallikán, De Slane's
translation, vol. i, p. 462.

[611] _Ibid._, vol. iii, p. 355.

[612] The spirit of fortitude and patience (_ḥamása_) is exhibited by
both poets, but in a very different manner. Shanfará describes a man of
heroic nature. Ṭughrá’í wraps himself in his virtue and moralises
like a Muḥammadan Horace. Ṣafadí, however, says in his commentary
on Ṭughrá’í's ode (I translate from a MS. copy in my possession): "It
is named _Lámiyyatu ’l-‘Ajam_ by way of comparing it with the _Lámiyyatu
’l-‘Arab_, because it resembles the latter in its wise sentences and

[613] _I.e._, the native of Abúṣir (Búṣír), a village in Egypt.

[614] The _Burda_, ed. by C. A. Ralfs (Vienna, 1860), verse 140; _La
Bordah traduite et commentée par René Basset_ (Paris, 1894), verse 151.

[615] This appears to be a reminiscence of the fact that Muḥammad
gave his own mantle as a gift to Ka‘b b. Zuhayr, when that poet recited
his famous ode, _Bánat Su‘ád_ (see p. 127 _supra_).

[616] _Maqáma_ (plural, _maqámát_) is properly 'a place of standing';
hence, an assembly where people stand listening to the speaker, and in
particular, an assembly for literary discussion. At an early period
reports of such conversations and discussions received the name of
_maqámát_ (see Brockelmann, _Gesch. der Arab. Litteratur_, vol. i, p.
94). The word in its literary sense is usually translated by 'assembly,'
or by the French '_séance_.'

[617] _The Assemblies of al-Ḥarírí_, translated from the Arabic, with
an introduction and notes by T. Chenery (1867), vol. i, p. 19. This
excellent work contains a fund of information on diverse matters
connected with Arabian history and literature. Owing to the author's
death it was left unfinished, but a second volume (including
_Assemblies_ 27-50) by F. Steingass appeared in 1898.

[618] A full account of his career will be found in the Preface to
Houtsma's _Recueil de textes relatifs à l'histoire des Seldjoucides_,
vol. ii. p. 11 sqq. _Cf._ Browne's _Lit. Hist. of Persia_, vol. ii, p.

[619] This is a graceful, but probably insincere, tribute to the
superior genius of Hamadhání.

[620] The above passage is taken, with some modification, from the
version of Ḥarírí published in 1850 by Theodore Preston, Fellow of
Trinity College, Cambridge, who was afterwards Lord Almoner's Professor
of Arabic (1855-1871).

[621] Moslems had long been familiar with the fables of Bidpai, which
were translated from the Pehleví into Arabic by Ibnu ’l-Muqaffa‘ (†
_circa_ 760 A.D.).

[622] _Al-Fakhrí_, ed. by Derenbourg, p. 18, l. 4 sqq.

[623] A town in Mesopotamia, not far from Edessa. It was taken by the
Crusaders in 1101 A.D. (Abu ’l-Fidá, ed. by Reiske, vol. iii, p. 332).

[624] The 48th _Maqáma_ of the series as finally arranged.

[625] Chenery, _op. cit._, p. 23.

[626] This has been done with extraordinary skill by the German poet,
Friedrich Rückert (_Die Verwandlungen des Abu Seid von Serug_, 2nd ed.
1837), whose work, however, is not in any sense a translation.

[627] A literal translation of these verses, which occur in the sixth
_Assembly_, is given by Chenery, _op. cit._, p. 138.

[628] _Ibid._, p. 163.

[629] Two grammatical treatises by Ḥarírí have come down to us. In
one of these, entitled _Durratu ’l-Ghawwáṣ_ ('The Pearl of the
Diver') and edited by Thorbecke (Leipzig, 1871), he discusses the
solecisms which people of education are wont to commit.

[630] See Chenery, _op. cit._, pp. 83-97.

[631] _The Caliphate, its Rise, Decline, and Fall_, p. 573.

[632] Another example is ‘Umar al-Khayyámí for ‘Umar Khayyám. The
spelling Ghazzálí (with a double _z_) was in general use when Ibn
Khallikán wrote his Biographical Dictionary in 1256 A.D. (see De Slane's
translation, vol. i, p. 80), but according to Sam‘ání the name is
derived from Ghazála, a village near Ṭús; in which case Ghazálí is
the correct form of the _nisba_. I have adopted 'Ghazalí' in deference
to Sam‘ání's authority, but those who write 'Ghazzálí' can at least
claim that they err in very good company.

[633] Shamsu ’l-Dín al-Dhahabí († 1348 A.D.).

[634] ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥím al-Isnawí († 1370 A.D.), author of a
biographical work on the Sháfi‘ite doctors. See Brockelmann, _Gesch. der
Arab. Litt._, vol. ii, p. 90.

[635] Abu ’l-Ma‘álí al-Juwayní, a famous theologian of Naysábúr († 1085
A.D.), received this title, which means 'Imám of the Two Sanctuaries,'
because he taught for several years at Mecca and Medína.

[636] _I.e._, the camp-court of the Seljúq monarch Maliksháh, son of Alp

[637] According to his own account in the _Munqidh_, Ghazálí on leaving
Baghdád went first to Damascus, then to Jerusalem, and then to Mecca.
The statement that he remained ten years at Damascus is inaccurate.

[638] The MS. has Fakhru ’l-Dín.

[639] Ghazálí's return to public life took place in 1106 A.D.

[640] The correct title of Ibn Ḥazm's work is uncertain. In the Cairo
ed. (1321 A.H.) it is called _Kitábu ’l-Fiṣal fi ’l-Milal wa ’l-Ahwá
wa ’l-Niḥal_.

[641] See p. 195 _supra_.

[642] Kor. ix, 3. The translation runs ("This is a declaration) _that
God is clear of the idolaters, and His Apostle likewise_." With the
reading _rasúlihi_ it means that God is clear of the idolaters and also
of His Apostle.

[643] Ibn Khallikan, De Slane's translation, vol. i, p. 663.

[644] See p. 128.

[645] Ibn Khallikán, No. 608; De Slane's translation, vol. iii, p. 31.

[646] See pp. 131-134, _supra_.

[647] Goldziher, _Muhammedanische Studien_, Part I, p. 197.

[648] _Ibid._, p. 195.

[649] Ibn Qutayba, _Kitábu ’l-Ma‘árif_, p. 269.

[650] While Abú ‘Ubayda was notorious for his freethinking
proclivities, Aṣma‘í had a strong vein of pietism. See Goldziher,
_loc. cit._, p. 199 and _Abh. zur Arab. Philologie_, Part I, p. 136.

[651] Professor Browne has given a _résumé_ of the contents in his _Lit.
Hist. of Persia_, vol. i, p. 387 seq.

[652] Ed. by Max Grünert (Leyden, 1900).

[653] Vol. i ed. by C. Brockelmann (Weimar and Strassburg, 1898-1908).

[654] The epithet _jáḥiẓ_ means 'goggle-eyed.'

[655] See p. 267.

[656] Ibn Khallikán, De Slane's translation, vol. ii, p. 250.

[657] One of these, the eleventh of the complete work, has been edited
by Ahlwardt: _Anonyme Arabische Chronik_ (Greifswald, 1883). It covers
part of the reign of the Umayyad Caliph, ‘Abdu ’l-Malik (685-705 A.D.).

[658] The French title is _Les Prairies d'Or_. Brockelmann, in his
shorter _Hist. of Arabic Literature_ (Leipzig, 1901), p. 110, states
that the correct translation of _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_ is 'Goldwäschen.'

[659] Concerning Ṭabarí and his work the reader should consult De
Goeje's Introduction (published in the supplementary volume containing
the Glossary) to the Leyden edition, and his excellent article on
Ṭabarí and early Arab Historians in the _Encyclopædia Britannica_.

[660] Abu ’l-Maḥásin, ed. by Juynboll, vol. i, p. 608.

[661] _Selection from the Annals of Tabarí_, ed. by M. J. de Goeje
(Leyden, 1902), p. xi.

[662] De Goeje's Introduction to Ṭabarí, p. xxvii.

[663] Al-Bal‘amí, the Vizier of Manṣúr I, the Sámánid, made in 963
A.D. a Persian epitome of which a French translation by Dubeux and
Zotenberg was published in 1867-1874.

[664] _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_, ed. by Barbier de Meynard, vol. i, p. 5 seq.

[665] The _Akhbáru ’l-Zamán_ in thirty volumes (one volume is extant at
Vienna) and the _Kitáb al-Awsaṭ_.

[666] _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_, p. 9 seq.

[667] It may be noted as a coincidence that Ibn Khaldún calls Mas‘údí
_imáman lil-mu’arrikhín_, "an Imám for all the historians," which
resembles, though it does not exactly correspond to, "the Father of

[668] Mas‘údí gives a summary of the contents of his historical and
religious works in the Preface to the _Tanbíh wa-’l-Ishráf_, ed. by De
Goeje, p. 2 sqq. A translation of this passage by De Sacy will be found
in Barbier de Meynard's edition of the _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_, vol. ix, p.
302 sqq.

[669] See _Murúj_, vol. i, p. 201, and vol. iii, p. 268.

[670] _Ibid._, vol. ii, p. 372 sqq.

[671] De Sacy renders the title by 'Le Livre de l'Indication et de
l'Admonition ou l'Indicateur et le Moniteur'; but see De Goeje's edition
of the text (Leyden, 1894), p. xxvii.

[672] The full title is _Kitábu ’l-Kámil fi ’l-Ta’ríkh_, or 'The Perfect
Book of Chronicles.' It has been edited by Tornberg in fourteen volumes
(Leyden, 1851-1876).

[673] Ibn Khallikán, De Slane's translation, vol. ii, p. 289.

[674] An excellent account of the Arab geographers is given by Guy Le
Strange in the Introduction to his _Palestine under the Moslems_
(London, 1890). De Goeje has edited the works of Ibn Khurdádbih,
Iṣṭakhrí, Ibn Ḥawqal, and Muqaddasí in the _Bibliotheca
Geographorum Arabicorum_ (Leyden, 1870, &c.)

[675] De Slane's translation, vol. iv, p. 9 sqq.

[676] P. 243.

[677] The translators employed by the Banú Músá were paid at the rate of
about 500 dínárs a month (_ibid._, p. 43, l. 18 sqq.).

[678] _Ibid._, p. 271; Ibn Khallikán, De Slane's translation, vol. iii,
p. 315.

[679] A chapter at least would be required in order to set forth
adequately the chief material and intellectual benefits which European
civilisation has derived from the Arabs. The reader may consult Von
Kremer's _Culturgeschichte des Orients_, vol. ii, chapters 7 and 9;
Diercks, _Die Araber im Mittelalter_ (Leipzig, 1882); Sédillot,
_Histoire générale des Arabes_; Schack, _Poesie und Kunst der Araber in
Spanien und Sicilien_; Munk, _Mélanges de Philosophie Juive et Arabe_;
De Lacy O'Leary, _Arabic Thought and its Place in History_ (1922); and
Campbell, _Arabian Medicine and its Influence on the Middle Ages_
(1926). A volume entitled _The Legacy of the Islamic World_, ed. by Sir
T. W. Arnold and Professor A. Guillaume, is in course of publication.

[680] Ibn Khallikán, De Slane's translation, vol. i, p. 440.

[681] _The Chronology of Ancient Nations_ (London, 1879) and Alberuni's
_India_ (London, 1888).

[682] P. 384 sqq.

[683] The passages concerning the Ṣábians were edited and translated,
with copious annotations, by Chwolsohn in his _Ssabier und Ssabismus_
(St. Petersburg, 1856), vol. ii, p. 1-365, while Flügel made similar use
of the Manichæan portion in _Mani, seine Lehre und seine Schriften_
(Leipzig, 1862).

[684] Wellhausen, _Das Arabische Reich_, p. 350 seq.

[685] See Goldziher, _Muhamm. Studien_, Part II, p. 53 sqq.

[686] _Ibid._, p. 70 seq.

[687] _Fragmenta Historicorum Arabicorum_, ed. by De Goeje and De Jong,
p. 298.

[688] There are, of course, some partial exceptions to this rule,
_e.g._, Mahdí and Hárún al-Rashíd.

[689] See p. 163, note.

[690] Several freethinkers of this period attempted to rival the Koran
with their own compositions. See Goldziher, _Muhamm. Studien_, Part II,
p. 401 seq.

[691] _Al-Nujúm al-Záhira_, ed. by Juynboll, vol. i, p. 639.

[692] This is the literal translation of _Ikhwánu ’l-Safá_, but
according to Arabic idiom 'brother of purity' (_akhu ’l-ṣafá_) simply
means 'one who is pure or sincere,' as has been shown by Goldziher,
_Muhamm. Studien_, Part I, p. 9, note. The term does not imply any sort
of brotherhood.

[693] Ibnu ’l-Qifṭí, _Ta’ ríkhu ’l-Ḥukamá_ (ed. by Lippert), p.
83, l. 17 sqq.

[694] _Notice sur un manuscrit de la secte des Assassins_, by P.
Casanova in the _Journal Asiatique_ for 1898, p 151 sqq.

[695] De Goeje, _Mémoire sur les Carmathes_, p. 172.

[696] _Ṣâliḥ b. ‘Abd al-Quddûs und das Zindîḳthum während der
Regierung des Chalifen al-Mahdí in Transactions of the Ninth Congress of
Orientalists_, vol. ii, p. 105 seq.

[697] Ṭabarí, iii, 522, 1.

[698] _I.e._ the sacred books of the Manichæans, which were often
splendidly illuminated. See Von Kremer, _Culturgesch. Streifzüge_, p.

[699] _Cf._ Ṭabarí, iii, 499, 8 sqq.

[700] _Ibid._, iii, 422, 19 sqq.

[701] _Cf._ the saying "_Aẓrafu mina ’l-Zindíq_" (Freytag, _Arabum
Proverbia_, vol. i, p. 214).

[702] As Professor Bevan points out, it is based solely on the
well-known verse (_Aghání_, iii, 24, l. 11), which has come down to us
without the context:--

  "_Earth is dark and Fire is bright,
    And Fire has been worshipped ever since Fire existed._"

[703] These popular preachers (_quṣṣáṣ_) are admirably
described by Goldziher, _Muhamm. Studien_, Part II, p. 161 sqq.

[704] The Arabic text of these verses will be found in Goldziher's
monograph, p. 122, ll. 6-7.

[705] See a passage from the _Kitábu ’l-Ḥayawán_, cited by Baron V.
Rosen in _Zapiski_, vol. vi, p. 337, and rendered into English in my
_Translations from Eastern Poetry and Prose_, p. 53. Probably these
monks were Manichæans, not Buddhists.

[706] _Zaddíq_ is an Aramaic word meaning 'righteous.' Its etymological
equivalent in Arabic is _siddíq_, which has a different meaning, namely,
'veracious.' _Zaddíq_ passed into Persian in the form _Zandík_, which
was used by the Persians before Islam, and _Zindíq_ is the Arabicised
form of the latter word. For some of these observations I am indebted to
Professor Bevan. Further details concerning the derivation and meaning
of _Zindíq_ are given in Professor Browne's _Literary Hist. of Persia_
(vol. i, p. 159 sqq.), where the reader will also find a lucid account
of the Manichæan doctrines.

[707] Ibnu ’l-Athír, vol. viii, p. 229 seq. (anno 323 A.H. = 934-935

[708] _Ibid._, p. 98.

[709] _Ibid._, p. 230 seq.

[710] See p. 192.

[711] _I.e._, he is saved from Hell but excluded from Paradise.

[712] Ibn Khallikán, ed. by Wüstenfeld, No. 440; De Slane's translation,
vol. ii, p. 228.

[713] The clearest statement of Ash‘arí's doctrine with which I am
acquainted is contained in the Creed published by Spitta, _Zur
Geschichte Abu ’l-Ḥasan al-Ash‘arí's_ (Leipzig, 1876), p. 133, l. 9
sqq.; German translation, p. 95 sqq. It has been translated into English
by D. B. Macdonald in his _Muslim Theology_, p. 293 and foll.

[714] _Op. cit._, p. 7 seq.

[715] Schreiner, _Zur Geschichte des Ash‘aritenthums_ in the _Proceedings
of the Eighth International Congress of Orientalists_ (1889), p. 5 of
the _tirage à part_.

[716] _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 31, p. 167.

[717] See Goldziher in _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 41, p. 63 seq., whence the
following details are derived.

[718] See p. 339 seq.

[719] I have used the Cairo edition of 1309 A.H. A French translation by
Barbier de Meynard was published in the _Journal Asiatique_ (January,
1877), pp. 9-93.

[720] These are the Ismá‘ílís or Báṭinís (including the Carmathians
and Assassins). See p. 271 sqq.

[721] _A Literary History of Persia_, vol. ii, p. 295 seq.

[722] _The Life of al-Ghazzālī_ in the _Journal of the American
Oriental Society_, vol. xx (1899), p. 122 sqq.

[723] _Herrschende Ideen_, p. 67.

[724] _Idee und Grundlinien einer allgemeiner Geschichte der Mystik_, an
academic oration delivered on November 22, 1892, and published at
Heidelberg in 1893.

[725] The following sketch is founded on my paper, _An Historical
Enquiry concerning the Origin and Development of Ṣúfiism_
(_J.R.A.S._, April, 1906, p. 303 sqq.).

[726] This, so far as I know, is the oldest extant definition of

[727] It is impossible not to recognise the influence of Greek
philosophy in this conception of Truth as Beauty.

[728] Jámí says (_Nafahátu ’l-Uns_, ed. by Nassau Lees, p. 36): "He is
the head of this sect: they all descend from, and are related to, him."

[729] See ‘Aṭṭár's _Tadhkiratu ’l-Awliyá_, ed. by Nicholson, Part
I, p. 114; Jámí's _Nafaḥát_, p. 35; Ibn Khallikán, De Slane's
translation, vol. i, p. 291.

[730] _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_, vol. ii, p. 401 seq.

[731] The _Influence of Buddhism upon Islam_, by I. Goldziher (Budapest,
1903). As this essay is written in Hungarian, I have not been able to
consult it at first hand, but have used the excellent translation by Mr.
T. Duka, which appeared in the _J.R.A.S._ for January, 1904, pp.

[732] It was recognised by the Ṣúfís themselves that in some points
their doctrine was apparently based on Mu‘tazilite principles. See
Sha‘rání, _Lawáqiḥu ’l-Anwár_ (Cairo, 1299 A.H.), p. 14, l. 21 sqq.

[733] This definition is by Abu ’l-Ḥusayn al-Núrí († 907-908 A.D.).

[734] See Professor Browne's _Lit. Hist. of Persia_, vol. ii, p. 261

[735] The _Díwán of ‘Umar Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ_, ed. by Rushayyid
al-Daḥdáḥ (Marseilles, 1853).

[736] _I.e._, New and Old Cairo.

[737] The _Díwán_, excluding the _Tá’iyyatu ’l-Kubrá_, has been edited
by Rushayyid al-Daḥdáḥ (Marseilles, 1853).

[738] _Díwán_, p. 219, l. 14 and p. 213, l. 18.

[739] Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ, like Mutanabbí, shows a marked fondness for
diminutives. As he observes (_Díwán_, p. 552):--

  _má qultu ḥubayyibí mina ’l-taḥqíri
   bal ya‘dhubu ’smu ’l-shakhṣi bi-’l-taṣghíri._

  "_Not in contempt I say 'my darling.' No!
    By 'diminution' names do sweeter grow._"

[740] _Dìwàn_, p. 472 sqq. A French rendering will be found at p. 41 of
Grangeret de Lagrange's _Anthologie Arabe_ (Paris, 1828).

[741] The words of God to Moses (Kor. vii, 139).

[742] _Díwán_, p. 257 sqq.

[743] This refers to Kor. vii, 171. God drew forth from the loins of
Adam all future generations of men and addressed them, saying, "_Am not
I your Lord?_" They answered, "_Yes_," and thus, according to the
Ṣúfí interpretation, pledged themselves to love God for evermore.

[744] _Díwán_, p. 142 sqq.

[745] See _A Literary History of Persia_, vol. i, p. 428 sqq. But during
the last twenty years a great deal of new light has been thrown upon the
character and doctrines of Ḥalláj. See Appendix.

[746] The best-known biography of Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí occurs in Maqqarí's
_Nafḥu ’l-Ṭíb_, ed. by Dozy and others, vol. i, pp. 567-583. Much
additional information is contained in a lengthy article, which I have
extracted from a valuable MS. in my collection, the _Shadharátu
’l-Dhahab_, and published in the _J.R.A.S._ for 1906, pp. 806-824. _Cf._
also Von Kremer's _Herrschende Ideen_, pp. 102-109.

[747] Muḥyi ’l-Dín means 'Reviver of Religion.' In the West he was
called Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí, but the Moslems of the East left out the definite
article (_al_) in order to distinguish him from the Cadi Abú Bakr Ibnu
’l-‘Arabí of Seville († 1151 A.D.).

[748] _Al-Kibrít al-aḥmar_ (literally, 'the red sulphur').

[749] See Von Kremer, _op. cit._, p. 108 seq.

[750] The above particulars are derived from an abstract of the
_Futúḥát_ made by ‘Abdu ’l-Wahháb al-Sha‘rání († 1565 A.D.), of which
Fleischer has given a full description in the _Catalogue of Manuscripts
in the Leipzig Univ. Library_ (1838), pp. 490-495.

[751] Maqqarí, i, 569, 11.

[752] Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal.

[753] Abú Ḥanífa.

[754] _Fuṣúṣu ’l-Ḥikam_ (Cairo, A.H. 1321), p. 78. The words
within brackets belong to the commentary of ‘Abdu ’l-Razzáq al-Káshání
which accompanies the text.

[755] Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí uses the term "Idea of ideas" (_Ḥaqíqatu
’l-ḥaqá’iq_) as equivalent to λόγος ενδιάθετος, while "the
Idea of Muḥammad" (_al-Ḥaqíqatu ’l-Muḥammadiyya_) corresponds
to λόγος προφορικός.

[756] The Arabic text of these verses will be found in the collection of
Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí's mystical odes, entitled _Tarjumánu ’l-Ashwáq_, which I
have edited (Oriental Translation Fund, New Series, vol. xx, p. 19, vv.

[757] Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí has been studied by Asin Palacios, Professor of
Arabic at Madrid, whose books are written in Spanish, and H. S. Nyberg
(_Kleinere Schriften des Ibn al-‘Arabí_, Leiden, 1919). A general view
may be obtained from my _Studies in Islamic Mysticism_, pp. 77-142 and
pp. 149-161.

[758] See Asin Palacios, _Islam and the Divine Comedy_, London, 1926.

[759] Abridged from Ibnu ’l-‘Idhárí, _al-Bayán al-Mughrib_, ed. by Dozy,
vol. ii, p. 61 seq.

[760] Ibn Khallikán, ed. by Wüstenfeld, No. 802; De Slane's translation,
vol. iv, p. 29 sqq.

[761] Muqaddasí (ed. by De Goeje), p. 236, cited by Goldziher, _Die
Zâhiriten_, p. 114.

[762] Dozy, _Histoire des Musulmans d'Espagne_ (Leyden, 1861), vol. iii,
p. 90 sqq.

[763] ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán III was the first of his line to assume this

[764] Maqqarí, vol. i, p. 259. As Maqqarí's work is our principal
authority for the literary history of Moslem Spain, I may conveniently
give some account of it in this place. The author, Aḥmad b.
Muḥammad al-Tilimsání al-Maqqarí († 1632 A.D.) wrote a biography of
Ibnu ’l-Khaṭíb, the famous Vizier of Granada, to which he prefixed a
long and discursive introduction in eight chapters: (1) Description of
Spain; (2) Conquest of Spain by the Arabs; (3) History of the Spanish
dynasties; (4) Cordova; (5) Spanish-Arabian scholars who travelled in
the East; (6) Orientals who visited Spain; (7) Miscellaneous extracts,
anecdotes, poetical citations, &c., bearing on the literary history of
Spain; (8) Reconquest of Spain by the Christians and expulsion of the
Arabs. The whole work is entitled _Nafḥu ’l-Ṭíb min ghuṣní
’l-Andalusi ’l-raṭíb wa-dhikri wazírihá Lisáni ’l-Dín Ibni
’l-Khaṭíb_. The introduction, which contains a fund of curious and
valuable information--"a library in little"--has been edited by Dozy and
other European Arabists under the title of _Analectes sur l'Histoire et
la Littérature des Arabes d'Espagne_ (Leyden, 1855-1861).

[765] The name of Slaves (_Ṣaqáliba_) was originally applied to
prisoners of war, belonging to various northern races, who were sold to
the Arabs of Spain, but the term was soon widened so as to include all
foreign slaves serving in the harem or the army, without regard to their
nationality. Like the Mamelukes and Janissaries, they formed a
privileged corps under the patronage of the palace, and since the reign
of ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán III their number and influence had steadily
increased. _Cf._ Dozy, _Hist. des Mus. d'Espagne_, vol. iii, p. 58 sqq.

[766] Dozy, _op. cit._, vol. ii, p. 103 seq.

[767] Qazwíní, _Átháru ’l-Bilád_, ed. by Wüstenfeld, p. 364, l. 5 sqq.

[768] See Schack, _op. cit._, vol. ii, p. 46 sqq.

[769] The Arabic original occurs in the 11th chapter of the _Ḥalbatu
’l-Kumayt_, a collection of poems on wine and drinking by Muḥammad b.
Ḥasan al-Nawájí († 1455 A.D.), and is also printed in the _Anthologie
Arabe_ of Grangeret de Lagrange, p. 202.

[770] _Al-Ḥullat al-Siyará_ of Ibnu ’l-Abbár, ed. by Dozy, p. 34. In
the last line instead of "foes" the original has "the sons of ‘Abbás."
Other verses addressed by ‘Abdu ’l-Raḥmán to this palm-tree are cited
by Maqqarí, vol. ii, p. 37.

[771] Full details concerning Ziryáb will be found in Maqqarí, vol. ii,
p. 83 sqq. _Cf._ Dozy, _Hist. des Mus. d'Espagne_, vol. ii, p. 89 sqq.

[772] Maqqarí, _loc. cit._, p. 87, l. 10 sqq.

[773] Dozy, _Histoire des Musulmans d'Espagne_, vol. iii, p. 107 sqq.

[774] See the verses cited by Ibnu ’l-Athír, vol. viii, p. 457.

[775] Ibn Khallikán, No. 697, De Slane's translation, vol. iii, p. 186.

[776] Ibn Khallikán, _loc. cit._

[777] _Loc. cit._, p. 189. For the sake of clearness I have slightly
abridged and otherwise remodelled De Slane's translation of this

[778] A somewhat different version of these events is given by Dozy,
_Histoire des Musulmans d'Espagne_, vol. iv, p. 189 sqq.

[779] The term _Mulaththamún_, which means literally 'wearers of the
_lithám_' (a veil covering the lower part of the face), is applied to
the Berber tribes of the Sahara, the so-called Almoravides
(_al-Murábiṭún_), who at this time ruled over Northern Africa.

[780] Ibnu ’l-Abbár (Dozy, _Loci de Abbadidis_, vol. ii, p. 63).

[781] _Histoire des Musulmans d'Espagne_, vol. iv, p. 287.

[782] _I.e._, 'holder of the two vizierships'--that of the sword and
that of the pen. See De Slane's translation of Ibn Khallikán, vol. iii,
p. 130, n. 1.

[783] The Arabic text of this poem, which occurs in the _Qalá’idu
’l-‘Iqyán_ of Ibn Kháqán, will be found on pp. 24-25 of Weyers's
_Specimen criticum exhibens locos Ibn Khacanis de Ibn Zeidouno_ (Leyden,

[784] Cited by Ibn Khallikán in his article on Ibn Ḥazm (De Slane's
translation, vol. ii, p. 268).

[785] Maqqarí, vol. i, p. 511, l. 21.

[786] Maqqarí, _loc. cit._ p. 515, l. 5 seq.

[787] See p. 341, note 1[640].

[788] The contents of the _Kitábu ’l-Milal wa-’l-Niḥal_ are fully
summarised by Dozy in the Leyden Catalogue, vol. iv, pp. 230-237. _Cf._
also _Zur Komposition von Ibn Ḥazm's Milal wa’n-Niḥal_, by Israel
Friedlaender in the _Nöldeke-Festschrift_ (Giessen, 1906), vol. i, p.
267 sqq.

[789] So far as I am aware, the report that copies are preserved in the
great mosque at Tunis has not been confirmed.

[790] His Arabic name is Ismá‘íl b. Naghdála. See the Introduction to
Dozy's ed. of Ibnu ’l-‘Idhárí, p. 84, n. 1.

[791] An interesting notice of Samuel Ha-Levi is given by Dozy in his
_Hist. des Mus. d'Espagne_, vol. iv, p. 27 sqq.

[792] _Kámil_ of Ibnu ’l-Athír, ed. by Tornberg, vol. ix, p. 425 sqq.
The following narrative (which has been condensed as far as possible)
differs in some essential particulars from the accounts given by Ibn
Khaldún (_History of the Berbers_, De Slane's translation, vol. ii, p.
64 sqq.) and by Ibn Abí Zar‘ (Tornberg, _Annales Regum Mauritaniæ_, p.
100 sqq. of the Latin version). _Cf._ A. Müller, _Der Islam_, vol. ii,
p. 611 sqq.

[793] See note on p. 423.

[794] The province of Tunis.

[795] _Murábiṭ_ is literally 'one who lives in a _ribáṭ_,' _i.e._,
a guardhouse or military post on the frontier. Such buildings were often
occupied, in addition to the garrison proper, by individuals who, from
pious motives, wished to take part in the holy war (_jihád_) against the
unbelievers. The word _murábiṭ_, therefore, gradually got an
exclusively religious signification, 'devotee' or 'saint,' which appears
in its modern form, _marabout_. As applied to the original Almoravides,
it still retains a distinctly military flavour.

[796] See Goldziher's article _Materialien zur Kenntniss der
Almohadenbewegung in Nordafrika_ (_Z.D.M.G._, vol. 41, p. 30 sqq.).

[797] ‘Abdu ’l-Wáḥid, _History of the Almohades_, ed. by Dozy, p.
135, l. 1 sqq.

[798] The Berbers at this time were Sunnite and anti-Fáṭimid.

[799] Almohade is the Spanish form of _al-Muwaḥḥid_.

[800] Stanley Lane-Poole, _The Mohammadan Dynasties_, p. 46.

[801] Renan, _Averroës et l'Averroïsme_, p. 12 sqq.

[802] See a passage from ‘Abdu ’l-Wáhid's _History of the Almohades_ (p.
201, l. 19 sqq.), which is translated in Goldziher's _Ẓâhiriten_, p.

[803] The Arabic text, with a Latin version by E. Pocock, was published
in 1671, and again in 1700, under the title _Philosophus Autodidactus_.
An English translation by Simon Ockley appeared in 1708, and has been
several times reprinted.

[804] The true form of this name is Absál, as in Jámí's celebrated poem.
_Cf._ De Boer, _The History of Philosophy in Islam_, translated by E. R.
Jones, p. 144.

[805] Jurjí Zaydán, however, is disposed to regard the story as being
not without foundation. See his interesting discussion of the evidence
in his _Ta‘ríkhu ’l-Tamaddun al-Islámi_ ('History of Islamic
Civilisation'), Part III, pp. 40-46.

[806] The life of Ibnu ’l-Khaṭib has been written by his friend and
contemporary, Ibn Khaldún (_Hist. of the Berbers_, translated by De
Slane, vol. iv. p. 390 sqq.), and forms the main subject of Maqqarí's
_Nafḥu ’l-Ṭíb_ (vols. iii and iv of the Buláq edition).

[807] Schack, _op. cit._, vol. i, p. 312 seq.

[808] Cited in the _Shadharátu ’l-Dhahab_, a MS. in my collection. See
_J.R.A.S._ for 1899, p. 911 seq., and for 1906, p. 797.

[809] The Arabic text of the Prolegomena has been published by
Quatremère in _Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque
Impériale_, vols. 16-18, and at Beyrout (1879, 1886, and 1900). A French
translation by De Slane appeared in _Not. et Extraits_, vols. 19-21.

[810] _Muqaddima_ (Beyrout ed. of 1900), p. 35, l. 5 sqq. = Prolegomena
translated by De Slane, vol. i, p. 71.

[811] _Muqaddima_, p. 37, l. 4 fr. foot = De Slane's translation, vol.
i, p. 77.

[812] Von Kremer has discussed Ibn Khaldún's ideas more fully than is
possible here in an admirably sympathetic article, _Ibn Chaldun und
seine Culturgeschichte der islamischen Reiche_, contributed to the
_Sitz. der Kais. Akad. der Wissenschaften_, vol. 93 (Vienna, 1879). I
have profited by many of his observations, and desire to make the
warmest acknowledgment of my debt to him in this as in countless other

[813] _Muqaddima_, Beyrout ed., p. 170 = De Slane's translation, vol. i,
p. 347 sqq.

[814] _Muqaddima_, p. 175 = De Slane's translation, vol. i, p. 356 sqq.

[815] An excellent appreciation of Ibn Khaldún as a scientific historian
will be found in Robert Flint's _History of the Philosophy of History_,
vol. i, pp. 157-171.

[816] Schack, _op. cit._, vol. ii, p. 151.

[817] E. J. W. Gibb, _A History of Ottoman Poetry_, vol. ii, p. 5.

[818] The nineteenth century should have been excepted, so far as the
influence of modern civilisation has reacted on Arabic literature.

[819] These Ismál‘ílís are the so-called Assassins, the terrible sect
organised by Ḥasan b. Ṣabbáḥ (see Professor Browne's _Literary
History of Persia_, vol. ii, p. 201 sqq.), and finally exterminated by
Húlágú. They had many fortresses, of which Alamút was the most famous,
in the Jibál province, near Qazwín.

[820] The reader must be warned that this and the following account of
the treacherous dealings of Ibnu ’l-‘Alqamí are entirely contradicted by
Shí‘ite historians. For example, the author of _al-Fakhrí_ (ed. by
Derenbourg, p. 452) represents the Vizier as a far-seeing patriot who
vainly strove to awaken his feeble-minded master to the gravity of the

[821] Concerning the various functions of the Dawídár (literally
Inkstand-holder) or Dawádár, as the word is more correctly written, see
Quatremère, _Histoire des Sultans Mamlouks_, vol. i, p. 118, n. 2.

[822] The MS. writes Yájúnas.

[823] _Al-kalb_, the Arabic equivalent of the Persian _sag_ (dog), an
animal which Moslems regard as unclean.

[824] By Shamsu ’l-Dín al-Dhahabí († 1348 A.D.).

[825] Mameluke (Mamlúk) means 'slave.' The term was applied to the
mercenary troops, Turks and Kurds for the most part, who composed the
bodyguard of the Ayyúbid princes.

[826] There are two Mameluke dynasties, called respectively Baḥrí
(River) Mamelukes and Burjí (Tower) Mamelukes. The former reigned from
1250 to 1390, the latter from 1382 to 1517.

[827] See Lane, _The Modern Egyptians_, ch. xxii.

[828] See Sir T. W. Arnold, _The Caliphate_, p. 146.

[829] Ed. of Buláq (1283 A.H.), pp. 356-366.

[830] _Ibid._, p. 358.

[831] These verses are cited in the _Ḥadíqatu ’l-Afráḥ_ (see
Brockelmann's _Gesch. d. Arab. Litt._, ii, 502), Calcutta, 1229 A.H., p.
280. In the final couplet there is an allusion to Kor. iv, 44: "_Verily
God will not wrong any one even the weight of an ant_" (mithqála

[832] Hartmann, _Das Muwa[vs][vs]aḥ_ (Weimar, 1897), p. 218.

[833] Literally, 'The Shaking of the Skull-caps,' in allusion to the
peasants' dance.

[834] See Vollers, _Beiträge zur Kenntniss der lebenden arabischen
Sprache in Aegypten_, _Z.D.M.G._, vol. 41 (1887), p. 370.

[835] Ibn Khallikán, De Slane's translation, vol. i, p. 3.

[836] It should be pointed out that the _Wafayát_ is very far from being
exhaustive. The total number of articles only amounts to 865. Besides
the Caliphs, the Companions of the Prophet, and those of the next
generation (_Tábi‘ún_), the author omitted many persons of note because
he was unable to discover the date of their death. A useful supplement
and continuation of the _Wafayát_ was compiled by al-Kutubí († 1363
A.D.) under the title _Fawátu ’l-Wafayát_.

[837] The Arabic text of the _Wafayát_ has been edited with variants and
indices by Wüstenfeld (Göttingen, 1835-1850). There is an excellent
English translation by Baron MacGuckin de Slane in four volumes

[838] The full title is _al-Mawá‘iẓ wa-’l-l‘tibár fí dhikri
’l-Khiṭaṭ wa-’l-Athár_. It was printed at Buláq in 1270 A.H.

[839] _Al-Sulúk li-ma‘rifati Duwali ’l-Mulúk_, a history of the Ayyúbids
and Mamelukes. The portion relating to the latter dynasty is accessible
in the excellent French version by Quatremère (_Histoire des Sultans
Mamlouks de l'Égypte_, Paris, 1845).

[840] A. R. Guest, _A List of Writers, Books, and other Authorities
mentioned by El Maqrízí in his Khiṭaṭ_, _J.R.A.S._ for 1902, p.

[841] The _Fakhrí_ has been edited by Ahlwardt (1860) and Derenbourg
(1895). The simplicity of its style and the varied interest of its
contents have made it deservedly popular. Leaving the Koran out of
account, I do not know any book that is better fitted to serve as an
introduction to Arabic literature.

[842] See p. 413, n. 1.

[843] _A Biographical Dictionary of Persons who knew Mohammad_, ed. by
Sprenger and others (Calcutta, 1856-1873).

[844] _Murúju ’l-Dhahab_, ed. by Barbier de Meynard, vol. iv. p. 90. The
names Shírázád and Dínázád are obviously Persian. Probably the former is
a corruption of Chihrázád, meaning 'of noble race,' while Dínázád
signifies 'of noble religion.' My readers will easily recognise the
familiar Scheherazade and Dinarzade.

[845] Strange as it may seem, this criticism represents the view of
nearly all Moslem scholars who have read the 'Arabian Nights.'

[846] Many episodes are related on the authority of Aṣma‘í, Abú
‘Ubayda, and Wahb b. Munabbih.

[847] Those who recite the _Síratu ‘Antar_ are named _‘Anátira_, sing.
_‘Antari_. See Lane's _Modern Egyptians_, ch. xxiii.

[848] That it was extant in some shape before 1150 A.D. seems to be
beyond doubt. _Cf._ the _Journal Asiatique_ for 1838, p. 383;
Wüstenfeld, _Gesch. der Arab. Aerzte_, No. 172.

[849] _Antar, a Bedoueen Romance_, translated from the Arabic by Terrick
Hamilton (London, 1820), vol. i, p. xxiii seq. See, however, Flügel's
Catalogue of the Kais. Kön. Bibl. at Vienna, vol. ii, p. 6. Further
details concerning the 'Romance of ‘Antar' will be found in Thorbecke's
_‘Antarah_ (Leipzig, 1867), p. 31 sqq. The whole work has been published
at Cairo in thirty-two volumes.

[850] Sha‘rání, _Yawáqít_ (ed. of Cairo, 1277 A.H.), p. 18.

[851] In 1417 A.D. The reader will find a full and most interesting
account of Nasímí, who is equally remarkable as a Turkish poet and as a
mystic belonging to the sect of the Ḥurúfís, in Mr. E. J. W. Gibb's
_History of Ottoman Poetry_, vol. i, pp. 343-368. It is highly
improbable that the story related here gives the true ground on which he
was condemned: his pantheistic utterances afford a sufficient
explanation, and the Turkish biographer, Laṭífí, specifies the verse
which cost him his life. I may add that the author of the _Shadharátu
’l-Dhahab_ calls him Nasímu ’l-Dín of Tabríz (he is generally said to be
a native of Nasím in the district of Baghdád), and observes that he
resided in Aleppo, where his followers were numerous and his heretical
doctrines widely disseminated.

[852] The 112th chapter of the Koran. See p. 164.

[853] Founder of the Shádhiliyya Order of Dervishes. He died in 1258

[854] A distinguished jurist and scholar who received the honorary
title, 'Sultan of the Divines.' He died at Cairo in 1262 A.D.

[855] An eminent canon lawyer († 1370 A.D.).

[856] It was the custom of the Zoroastrians (and, according to Moslem
belief, of the Christians and other infidels) to wear a girdle round the

[857] See _Materials for a History of the Wahabys_, by J. L. Burckhardt,
published in the second volume of his _Notes on the Bedouins and
Wahabys_ (London, 1831). Bu