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science of the stars. The same writer says : “One of al-Fadl Ibn Sahl's

astrological predictions wherein he perfectly succeeded was the following: “ when Tâhir Ibn al-Husain was nominated to march forth against al-Amin, " al-Fadl designated a fortunate hour for his departure and, at that moment, " he knotted his standard (4) and placed it in his hand, saying : 'I here knot for " thee a standard which shall not be untied for six and fifty years.' Now,

from the time of Tahir Ibn al-Husain's going forth against Ali Ibn Isa, al“ Amin's general, till that of Muhammad Ibn Tahir Ibn Abd Allah Ibn Tâhir “ Ibn al-Husain's capture at Naisâpur by Yakûb Ibn al-Laith as-Saffàr, precisely six and fifty years intervened.” Ibn Al-Laith took Muhammad prisoner on Sunday, the 2nd of Shawwal, A. H. 259 (August, A. D. 873). - Another instance of his successful predictions was that concerning himself : when alMâmûn obliged al-Fadl's mother to deliver up all the property which he had left on his decease, she brought to him a coffer, locked and sealed. On opening it he found a little box, closed also with a seal, and within it a paper folded up, and containing a piece of silk bearing the following inscription in his own handwriting : “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Clement! This is the “fate which al-Fadl Ibn Sahl has predicted for himself : he will live forty-eight

years, and be killed between water and fire.” He lived precisely to this age, and was murdered in his bath at Sarakhs, by Ghâlib, the maternal uncle of alMàmùn. Many other instances are given of his successful predictions.—It is related that he one day said to Thumâma Ibn al-Ashras (5): “I know not what

to do; I am overwhelmed by the number of persons who apply to me for favours.”—“Quit thy seat,” said Thumâma, “and it shall be my business to

prevent a single one of them from meeting thee.” Al-Fadl acknowledged the counsel to be good, and from that period Thumâma remained charged with all his personal affairs.— During his residence in Khorâsân, al-Fadl had a fit of sickness which brought him to the brink of death ; on his recovery, he held an audience, in which numerous congratulations, all drawn


great elegance, were addressed to him. When the speakers had finished, he turned to them and said : “Sickness has advantages which no reasonable man can

deny: it expiates sins; it prepares for us the reward due to patient suffering ; “it rouses us from supineness ; it makes us grateful for the benefit of health ; “ it calls us to repentance, and it incites us to charity.”— His praises were 578.




celebrated by some of the most eminent poets of the age; thus Ibrahim Ibn al-Abbâs as-Sůli (vol. I. p. 22) said of him :

There is no hand like that of al-Fadl Ibn Sahl. Its gifts are wealth, and its stroke is death. Its palm is formed for liberality, and its back to receive grateful kisses.

It was from this that Ibn ar-Růmi took the idea of the following passage; it belongs to one of his poems in which he addresses the vizir al-Kasim Ibn Obaid Allah Ibn Wahb :

I am placed between poverty and the necessity of maintaining a respectable appearance; in this position the worthiest of men would die of inanition. Stretch then forth to me that hand of which the palm is accustomed to bestow, and the back to be kissed.

It was of al-Fadl that Abù Muhammad Abd Allah Ibn Muhammad (some say Ibn Aiyûb) at-Taimi (5) said :

Rest assured that the noblest in every city, great though they be, are all al-Fadl's inferiors. When it pleases him, you may see the greatest of mankind humbled before him, and he humbleth himself only before God. The more God exalts him, the more he is humble and the more each man of rank is humble before him.

Muslim Ibn al-Walid al-Ansari, surnamed Sarî al-Ghawani (vol. I. p. 25),

said of him in one of his kasida's :

You established one khalifate and overthrew another; great was that which you established and that which you overthrew.

Al-Jihshiâri (vol. II. p. 137) relates that al-Fadl Ibn Sahl having been plunged into the deepest affliction by the loss of a son called al-Abbâs, Ibrahim Ibn Mûsa Ibn Jaafar al-Alawi (6) went in to him and recited this verse :

Better for thee than the possession of al-Abbâs is that indemnity for his loss which God reserves thee; and a better company than thine for al-Abbâs is that of God.

Al-Fadl acknowledged the truth of his words and made him a present; from that time, he felt consoled.—Al-Mâmûn at length found the influence which alFadl had acquired so onerous to himself, that he suborned his maternal uncle Ghalib as-Saùdi the black (7) to murder him. Al-Fadl was at Sarakhs and in his bath, when Ghalib entered suddenly with some others and slew him : this occurred on Thursday, the 2nd of Shaabân, A. H. 202 (February, A. D. 818); some say, A. H. 203. He was then aged forty-eight years; some say, forty-one years and five months. At-Tabari states, in his History, that al-Fadl died at the age of sixty; others again say that he was murdered on Friday, the 2nd of Shaabàn, A. H. 202. This last date I consider to be the true one. Elegies were composed on his death by Muslim Ibn al-Walid, Dibil (vol. 1.p.507), and Ibrahim Ibn al-Abbâs (vol. I. p. 22). His father Sahl died also in the year 202, soon after the assassination of his son. His mother, who was also the mother of his brother al-Hasan (vol. I. p. 408), lived to witness the marriage of Bûrân (vol. I. p. 268) with al-Mâmûn. On the death of al-Fadl, this prince went to console his mother and said : “ Grieve not for him, neither be afflicted at his “ loss; for God has given thee a son in me to replace him; so you need not “conceal from me the sentiments which you used to confide to him.” On this she wept and answered : “O Commander of the faithful! why should I not

grieve for a son who gained me another such as you?”— Sarakhsi means belonging to Sarakhs, a city in Khoråsân.

(1) Ibn al-Athir says, in his Kamil, year 190, that al-Fadl Ibn Sahl was originally a Majusi, or fireworshipper.

(2) “It was he,” says Ibn al-Athir, who advised al-Mâmûn to designate Ali Ibn Mûsa ar-Rida as successor to the khalifate." (3) Za 'yuminain signifies doubly fortunate, and ambidexter. (4) See vol. II. page 141, note (3).

(5) Abû Maan Thumáma Ibn al-Ashras, a member of the tribe of Numair and a native of Basra, was surnamed al-Majin (the libertine) for his disorderly life. The khalifs ar-Rashid and al-Måmun admitted him into Their society, and many amusing anecdotes are told of him. One evening after sunset, he went out in a state of inebriation, and seeing al-Mâmûn riding towards him, he took the other side of the street; but the khalif remarked him and rode up, upon which the following dialogue ensued: Is it you, Thumâma?"_“Yes." “ Are you drunk?”—“No.”—“Do you know me ?"_“Yes.”—“Who am I?”—“I don't know.” This answer threw al-Mamàn into such a fit of laughter, that he nearly fell off his horse. Thumama died A. H. 213 (A. D. 828-9) (an-Nujum az-Zahira). He professed the Motazilite doctrines, but held some others peculiar to himself, and of which as-Shahrastani gives an account : see Dr Cureton's Shahrestani, Arabic text,

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page 49.

(3) Al-Taimi ( som ) is the true reading. The Khatib says, in his History of Baghdad (MS. of the Bib. du Roi, ancien fonds, No. 634, fol 119, and fonds Asselin, MS No. 541, fol. 28 verso), that Abu Muhammad

Abd Allah Ibn Aiyùb at-Taimi, a member of the tribe of Taim Allah Ibn Thaalaba, was one of the eminent poets of the Abbaside dynasty, and celebrated the praises of al-Amin and al-Mâmûn.

(6) This is the same Alide who revolted in Yemen, A.H. 200.-See Abû 'l-Fedå's Annals.

17) Al-Mâmûn's complexion was dark or tawny; what is here said by Ibn Khallikân accounts for that peculiarity.



Abû 'l-Abbàs al-Fadl Ibn Marwan Ibn Masarkhas was vizir to al-Motasim. That prince having accompanied his brother al-Mâmûn to Asia Minor and being with him when he died there, it was al-Fadl Ibn Marwan who administered the oath of fealty to the people. Al-Motasim, having thus succeeded to his brother, hastened to testify his satisfaction to al-Fadl for his conduct, and, having made his entry into Baghdad on Saturday, the 1st of Ramadàn, A. H. 218 (September, A.D. 833), he invested him with the dignity of vizir, confiding to him at the same time the administration of all his affairs. Al-Fadl had directed his education, and, by the length of time thus passed in his service, he acquired the highest influence over him, even before the expiration of alMâmûn's reign. He was originally a Christian, and possessed but a slight knowledge of (Moslim) science; he displayed, however, a full acquaintance with the duties of his office. A collection has been made of the epistles composed by him, and he left a work entitled al-Mushủhidâi wa l-Akhbâr (observations and narrations), containing an account of the events which had passed under his own observation. One of his sayings was : “A kåtib is like a wheel for raising “ water; he gets out of order if not kept at work.” At an audience which he held one day for the dispatch of public business, he noticed, among the memorials presented to him, a paper on which were inscribed these lines :

Thou actest like Pharaoh, O Fadl Ibn Marwån ! but take warning. Thy predecessors were al-Fadl, and al-Fadl, and al-Fadl ; three princes now gone their ways ; whom fetters, prison, and violence deprived of life. Thou hast become a tyrant among men, and thou shalt perish as those three before thee have perished.

The Fadls here meant were those whose lives have been just given; namely alFadl Ibn Yahya al-Barmaki, al-Fadl Ibn ar-Rabi and al-Fadl Ibn Sahl. These verses are attributed by al-Marzubâni (1), in his Mojam as-Shuard, to al-Haitham Ibn Firâs as-Sâmi, a descendant of Sama Ibn Luwai, and az-Zamakhshari makes a similar statement in his Rabi al-Abrdr. An anecdote of a similar kind is told of Asad Ibn Razin the kâtib : when Abû Abd Allah al-Kûfi was appointed to replace Abû Jaafar Ibn Shirzad (2) and had occupied the residence and filled the seat of his predecessor, Asad wished to go into his presence, but the usher refused him admittance. On this he returned home and wrote al-Kûfi these lines :

We have seen the curtain of thy door drawn against us, but this humiliation was not effected by thy will. Hear my words, and be not angry with me; I seek neither money nor honours : Gratitude survives when all else perisheth; how many attained, like thee, a princely station, yet their power ended and they themselves departed. In that palace—in that hall—on that very throne—I saw the power high exalted which is now overthrown.

When Abû Abd Allah read these verses, he sent for the author and after many apologies, he granted the request which he had intended to make. Something similar to this will be found in the life of Abd al-Malik Ibn Omair, where we mention the observation made by him to Abd al-Malik Ibn Marwân, when the head of Musâb Ibn az-Zubair was presented to him (see p. 117 of this volume . – The feelings of al-Motasim for al-Fadl Ibn Marwân underwent at length a total change, and he caused him to be arrested in the month of Rajab, A.H. 221(JuneJuly, A. D. 836); he said at the same time : “He was disobedient to God whilst “ serving me, so God hath given me power over him.” Al-Fadl was afterwards employed by other khalifs, and he died in the month of the latter Rabi, A. H. 250 (May-June, A. D. 864); aged eighty years. It is stated, however, in the Fihrist (3) that he lived to the age of ninety-three : God only knows the truth! At-Tabari places his fall in the month of Safar of the year before mentioned. AsSůli (vol. I. p. 22) says: “When al-Motasim disgraced him, he seized in his “ house one million of dinars (4) and took away, besides, furniture and vases to “the value of another million. He detained him in prison five months, and

having then ordered him to remain a prisoner in his house, he chose for vizir “ Ahmad Ibn Ammår (5).” — A favorite saying of al-Fadl Ibn Marwan was : 580 “ Attack not thy enemy when he is advancing, for he has thus an advantage

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