Page images

according to another account, in 188; whilst the hafiz Abu l-Faraj Ibn al-Jauzi places his death in A. H. 194, at the age of thirty-two years, and in the town of Såwa (8); but the Khâtib declares, in his History of Baghdad, on the authority of Ibn Duraid, that Sibawaih died at Shiraz, and that his tomb is there. Some say that it was his birth which took place at al-Baidà, not his death. Abû Said at-Tuwal mentions that he saw inscribed on the tomb of Sibawaih the following verses by Sulaiman Ibn Yazid al-Adawi :

The friends are departed whose visits thou didst receive so often; far from the place of meeting are they now! they have retired and abandoned thee for ever! They have left thee desolate in the wilderness; they soothed thee not, neither did they dispel thy care. The decree of fate has been accomplished, and now thy sole possession is a tomb, but thy friends have turned away and left thee.


Mention being made of Sibawaih in the presence of Moawia Ibn Bakr alOlaimi, he said : “I saw him when he was a young man; and I was told that, “ at that time, none possessed a more complete acquaintance than he with the “ information which had been transmitted by al-Khalil Ibn Ahmad. I heard “him discourse, and argue points of grammar; he had an impediment in his

speech, and when I (afterwards) looked over his book, I perceived that his

pen expressed his ideas better than his tongue.”—“Sibawaih was a boy,” said Abû Zaid (9) al-Ansari, “ when he attended my lectures ; he wore at that time

two locks of hair which hung down over his shoulders ; and whenever you “ hear him say : I learned from a person in whose knowledge of pure

Arabic I «« « have great confidence,' you must know that he means me.” Sibawaih used frequently to recite the following verse :

[ocr errors]


When a man recovers from illness, he thinks he is safe; but he bears within himselt the malady of which he is to die.

In Sibawaih the last letter is an h (a), not a 1 (ä); it is a Persian surname, and means scent of the apple. It is thus that Arabic scholars pronounced this word and others of a similar form, such as Niftawaih, Amrawaih, etc.; but the Persians say Sibuyah, being averse to terminating the name with the word waih (alas !) because it is used in lamentations. Ibrahîm al-Harbi (10) says: “He was “ called Sibawaih because he had cheeks like apples and was extremely hand


(1) The life of al-Farrà will be found in this work.
(2) See vol. II. page 237.
(3) The lives of Isa Ibn Omar and Yûnus Ibn Habib are given in this work.
(6) See vol. II. p. 244.

(3) Abd Wail Bakr Ibn an-Nattåh Ibn Abi Himår al-Hanafi was distinguished as a poet in the reign of Harun ar-Rashid. He settled at Baghdad and frequented the society of Abu 'l-Atåhiya and his companions. Abu 'lAtàhiya composed an elegy on his death.—(The Khatib's abridged History of Baghdad; MS. No. 634, fol. 78.)

(6) Literally: Et ecce (fuit) illud illam (rem). The question was, whether in Arabic the particle iza governs the subject in the nominative and the predicate in the accusative, or not. It is certain that both terms are governed by it (as the Arabs say) in the nominative. The anecdote is related more fully by Ibn Hisham, and M. de Sacy has extracted it from the work of the latter author and inserted it in his Anthologie Grammaticale, page 199 et seq. He gives there also an extract from Sibawaih's celebrated Kitab.

(7) See vol. I. page 374, note (6).
(8) Såwa lay between Rai and Hamadán.
(9) The manuscripts are wrong here ; we must read toj sl. See vol. I. p. 570.
(10) See vol. I. page 46, note (6).


Abû Amr Ibn al-Alà, a member of the tribe of Màzin which is a branch of that 538 of Tamim, and a native of Basra, was one of the seven great Koran-readers. His father, al-Alå, was the son of Ammar Ibn al-Oryan Ibn Abd Allah Ibn al-Husain. I found among my rough notes, and in my own handwriting, his genealogy set forth thus: “ Abû Amr Ibn al-A là Ibn Ammar Ibn Abd Allah Ibn al-Husain “ Ibn al-Harith Ibn Julhum Ibn Khuzai Ibn Màzin Ibn Màlik Ibn Amr Ibn Ta

mim; some say that Julhum was the son of Hujr Ibn Khuzài, and that his “ real name was al-Oryan.”— Abû Amr was the most learned of men in the sacred Koran, the Arabic language, and poetry; as a grammarian, he ranked in the fourth generation from Ali Ibn Abi Talib(1). It is related by al-Asmâi that he heard Abû Amr say: “I know more grammar than al-Aamash (vol. I. p. 587) “ ever did; and were my grammatical information put down in writing, he would

not be able to lift it.” He said also : “ I proposed to Abû Amr one thousand “ grammatical queries, and he furnished me with one thousand examples deci“ “sive of these questions.” Abû Amr already held a high rank among bis contemporaries in the lifetime of al-Hasan al-Basri (vol. I. page 370), and Abů

Obaida (2) declared bim the most learned of men in philology, grammar, poetry, and the Koran. The books containing the expressions which he had written down from the lips of the purest speakers among the Arabs of the desert nearly filled one of his rooms up to the ceiling, but when he took to reading (the Koran, that is, when he commenced the practice of devotion, he threw them all away; and, when he returned to the study of his old science, he

possessed nothing on it except what he had learned by heart. The greater part of his philological information was derived from Arabs who were already living before the promulgation of Islamism. Al-Asmâi said: “I frequented Abů

Amr's sittings for ten years, and during that time I never heard him quote a

single verse of those composed subsequently to the promulgation of Islamism, “in support (of his philological and grammatical doctrines).” He said, another time : " It was of Abù Amr Ibn al-Alà that al-Farazdak said:

“I ceased not opening and shutting doors (in search of knowledge), till I went to Abù « 'l-Alâ Ibn Ammar."

It is certain that the ordinary surname Abû Amr was his real name, although some pretend that he was called Zabbân, and others mention other names. He drew his descent from Khuzâi Ibn Mazin, and, according to one of the traditional accounts of his genealogy, he was the son of al-Alà Ibn Ammar Ibu Abd Allah Ibn al-Husain Ibn al-Harith Ibn Julhum Ibn Khuzai Ibn Mazin Ibn Malik Ibn Amr Ibn Tamim ; but some say that Julhum was son of Hujr Ibn al-Khuzài : God best knows the truth! The following anecdote was related by Abû Amr:

Al-Hajjaj Ibn Yûsuf ath-Thakafi had caused search to be made for my father, “ who, in consequence, fled to Yemen ; and, as we were travelling in the desert " of that province, we were overtaken by a person who recited this verse :


• Often our hearts reject a thing which would have brought deliverance (furja) like the undoing of bonds.

“My father then asked him: "What news?' and he answered : " Al-Hajjàj is "dead.' But I was more delighted to hear the word farja (with which I was not acquainted before) than to hear of the death of al-Hajjaj. My father then " said: 'Let us turn our camels towards Basra.'” -“I asked Abû Amr,” said Abû Obaida, “ what age he was at that time? and he replied : *I had then "strangled (i. e. outlived) more than twenty years!'” Farja signifies the separation between two things; and furja, the separation between two mountains. The passage which follows is taken from the Tabakåt an-Nuhật, or classified list of the grammarians (3): “Al-Asmài relates that Abû Amr Ibn al-Alà said, in “ speaking of these words of the Prophet's: A person causing miscarriage must redeem his crime by bestowing a male or a female slave (fi l-janin ghurra tuabdin

au amâtin) (4), that, unless the Prophet had meant to express some idea by the ". word ghurra (albedo), he would have said : Fi l-janin abdon au amaton (5); "ro but he really did mean the white colour, and that none but a white male " " or female slave should be received as the price of redemption ; forbidding “« thus the accepting of a black male or female slave for that object ! This is a strange opinion, and I am unable to say whether it concords or not with that of any of the mujtahid imâms (6); I give it here merely on account of its singularity. In the same book we read that al-Asmài said: “I asked Abů

Amr Ibn al-Alå if the Arabs of the desert made any distinction between the “ fourth and the second form of the verb rahaba to fear), and he replied : “The “two are not equivalent. I then said : "The second form must mean to

frighten greatly, and the fourth to make fear enter the heart (7);' on which he “observed that the person who knew the difference died thirty years before (8).” 359 Ibn Munadir (9) said: “I asked Abû Amr Ibn al-Alå till what period of life a “man should continue acquiring learning? And he made answer : It befits him "to do so as long as his life lasts.'” Abû Amr states that he received the following relation from Katáda as-Sadùsi (10): “When the first copy of the Koran

was written out and presented to (the khalif) Othman Ibn Affàn, he said : "• There are faults of language in it, and let the Arabs of the desert rectify " them with their tongues (11).'” It was Abů Amr's (pious) custom not to pronounce a single verse from the beginning of the month of Ramadàn to the end of it. He spent every day a penny for a new (and therefore a pure pitcher to drink out of that day, and another penny for a nosegay; when he had done with the pitcher, he gave it to his family, and every evening he would order his maid to dry the nosegay and throw the fragments of the flowers into the water-skins to perfume them). Yûnus Ibn Habib, the grammarian, relates as follows: “I “ heard Abu Amr Ibn al-Alà say: I never interpolated the poems of the desert 60. Arabs but with one single verse, and that was :



“She rejected me, yet nothing displeased her, of all the effects of time, except my "grey beard and bald head."

"6" And this verse is still extant in a celebrated poem, composed by al“ • Aasha (12).'” Abů Obaida relates as follows : “ Abû Amr Ibn al-Alà went " to Sulaiman Ibn Ali, the uncle of as-Saffàh, and this prince asked him a ques“ tion to which Abû Amr answered, stating the truth ; Sulaiman was by no “ means pleased with his frankness, and Abû Amr, being vexed at this, left “ the room, reciting these lines as he went out:

*I disdain to humble myself before princes, even though they honour me and place 'me near them; when I spoke truth to them, I had to dread their anger, and had I told them lies, I should have pleased them."


6. 6

The following anecdote was related by Ali Ibn Muhammad Ibn Sulaiman anNaufali : “I heard my father say to Abû Amr Ibn al-Alà: “Tell me of the “work you composed on that subject which you call arabism; does it contain "all the language of the desert Arabs?' Abû Amr answered that it did not, and my father then said : “How do you manage when the Arabs furnish you with

examples contrary to your own rules?' To this Abû Amr replied : ‘I follow “«the majority of the cases and call the rest dialects.'” The anecdotes related of Abû Amr are very numerous. He was born at Mekka, A. II. 70 (A. D. 689–90); some say A. H. 68 or A. H. 65; and he died at Kùfa, A. H. 154 (A.D. 770-1); other accounts, however, place his death in A. II. 159, and 157, and 156. He had gone to Syria to solicit the benevolence of the governor of Damascus, Abd al-Wahhàb, the son of Ibrahim the imâm (13), and he expired on his return to Kûfa. Ibn Kutaiba asserts, however, that he died on his way to Syria, but in this he is pronounced to be mistaken ; and a certain transmitter of traditional knowledge declares that he saw Abû Amr’s tomb at Kûfa, having these words inscribed on it : “ This is the tomb of Abû Amr Ibn al-Alà.” When his last hour drew near, he experienced a succession of fainting fits; and as he was recovering from one of them, he perceived his son Bishr shedding tears, on which he said : “Why do you weep, now that eighty-four years have passed over me?"

The following elegiac lines were composed on his death by Abd Allah Ibn al-Mukassà (14):


« PreviousContinue »