Page images
PDF
EPUB

his own father ar-Rashid. His death was caused by eating too many grapes ; but some attribute it to a slow poison. It is of him that Abû Nuwās speaks in the following lines :

People said to me: “You are the ablest of all men in the various styles of noble “ discourse; your eulogies, expressed in admirable verse, are a blossom filling the “band of him who culls it with a fruit of pearls. Why then have you neglected to ce“lebrate the son of Mûsa and extol the noble qualities united in his person ?” My answer was: “ I am unable to utter praises suited to the merits of an imâm to whose “ father (the angel) Gabriel acted as a servant (3).”

He composed these verses because one of his companions had said to him: “I

never saw a more shameless fellow than you; there is not a sort of wine nor “ beast of chase but you have made some verses on it; and here is Ali Ibn Musa “ ar-Rida, living in your own time, and yet you have never noticed him.” To this Abû Nuwas replied : “By Allah! my silence has no other motive than 445 “ the respect I bear him; it befits not a person of my rank to compose verses on

a man like him.” Some time after this, he recited the piece here given. The following lines were pronounced by him also in praise of ar-Rida, (4) (and mention is made of the circumstance (by Ibn al-Jauzi) in the Shuzûr al-Okud under the year 201 or 202.)

The immaculate (descendants of Ali,) the pure of heart! whenever their name is pronounced, benedictions accompany it. He whose descent you cannot trace up to Ali, has no title to boast of ancient ancestry. When God created and established the world, he made you pure, O mortals! and chose you for his own; but you (sons of Ali !) are the noblest of mankind; it is you who possess the knowledge of (God's) book and of the meaning conveyed by its surats (5).

66

Al

Màmûn said one day to Ali Ibn Mûsa : “What do your brethren say of “our grandfather al-Abbàs Ibn Abd al-Muttalib ?”—“That,” replied Ali, “ which they ought to say of a man (so highly favoured) that, when God imposed

on his creatures obedience to the Prophet, He prescribed to the Prophet the

duty of obedience towards him (6).” On receiving this answer, al-Màmûn ordered him a present of one million of dirhims. His brother Zaid Ibn Mûsa having revolted at Basra against al-Màmûn and given the inhabitants a prey to violence and rapine, this khalif sent Ali Ibn Mûsa to turn him from his evil courses. On meeting him Ali said : “Woe be to thee, O Zaid ! thou hast “ treated the Moslims of Basra most cruelly, and yet thou callest thyself a son

“ of Fâtima, the daughter of the Prophet. By Allah! the Prophet himself is

thy greatest foe. Know that he who pretends to derive honourable qualities “ from God's Prophet, should manifest the same to others (7).” When this discourse was related to al-Màmûn, he burst into tears and exclaimed : “ It is “ thus that all the members of the Prophet's family should be!" The last words of Ali Ibn Mûsa’s reprimand convey an idea which he had borrowed from a saying of Zain al-Aabidin's (him whose life has been just given). That imâm always travelled incognito, and when asked his motive, he replied: “I detest “ assuming the qualities to which my descent from the Prophet entitles me, “ when I cannot manifest them to others."

(1) Ar-Rida signifies the accepted, the pleasing. This surname was given to him by al-Mâmûn on nominating him successor to the empire. Abù ’l-Fedâ says that the full title was: ar-Rida min Aal Muhammad, which Reiske has rendered by communibus votis electus vir de litate Muhammedis, but I believe il to mean acceptissimus apud Deum vir de gentilitate Muhammedis.

(2) This seems to be an exaggeration.

(3) The poet means the imám's forefather Muhammad, to whom Gabriel was sent with the different passages of the Koran.

(4) The phrase which follows is written in the margin of the autograph, but has been scored out.

(5) Some of the Shiite sects believe that every verse of the Koran has not only a literal, but a hidden meaning; which last is known to their imâm alone.

(6) This precept is not in the Koran. The author of the Majma al-Ahbab (MS. fonds St. Germain, No. 131) states, in his life of al-Abbâs, that the Prophet treated him with the deference and respect due to a parent.

(7) Literally: “He that takes by the Prophet should give by him.”

ABU 'L-HASAN AL-ASKARI.

Abû 'l-Hasan Ali al-Askari, surnamed al-Hàdi (the director), and held by the imâmite Shiites as one of the twelve imâms, was the son of Muhammad al-Jawad and the grandson of Ali ar-Rida; having just given the life of the latter, it is unnecessary for us to trace up the genealogy farther (as it will be found there). Secret information having been given to al-Mutawakkil that this imam had a quantity of arms, books, and other objects for the use of his followers concealed in his house, and being induced by malicious reports to believe that he aspired to the empire, he sent one night some soldiers of the Turkish guard to break in on him when he least expected such a visit. They found him quite alone and locked up in his room, clothed in a hair-shirt, his head covered with a woollen cloak, and turned with his face in the direction of Mekka ; chanting, in this attitude, some verses of the Koran expressive of God's promises and threats, and having no other carpet between him and the earth than sand and gravel. He was carried off in that attire and brought, in the depth of the night, before al-Mutawakkil, who was then engaged in drinking wine. On seeing him, the khalif received him with respect, and being informed that nothing had been found in his house to justify the suspicions cast upon him, he seated him by his side and offered him the goblet which he held in his hand. “ Commander of the faithful !” said Abu 'l-Hasan, “a liquor such as that was “never yet combined with my flesh and blood; dispense me therefore from “ taking it.” The khalif acceded to his request and then asked him to repeat some verses which might amuse him. Abů ’l-llasan replied that he knew by heart very little poetry; but al-Mutawakkil having insisted, he recited these lines :

They passed the night on the summits of the mountains, protected by valiant warriors, but their place of refuge availed them not. After all their pomp and power, they had 446 to descend from their lofty fortresses to the custody of the tomb. O what a dreadful change! Their graves had already received them when a voice was heard exclaiming : " Where are the thrones, the crowns, and the robes of state ? where are now the faces once “so delicate, which were shaded by veils and protected by the curtains of the audience· hall (1)?”— To this demand, the tomb gave answer sufficient : “ The worms," it said, " are now revelling upon those faces; long had these men been eating and drinking, “ but now they are eaten in their turn."

Every person present was filled with apprehension for Abû 'l-Hasan Ali's safety; they feared that al-Mutawakkil, in the first burst of indignation, would have vented his wrath upon him; but they perceived the khalif weeping bitterly, the tears trickling down his beard, and all the assembly wept with him. Al-Mutawakkil then ordered the wine to be removed, after which he said : “ Tell me! “ Abû 'l-Hasan! are you in debt?”—_“Yes,” replied the other, “I owe four “thousand dinars.” The khalif ordered that sum to be given him, and sent him home with marks of the highest respect. --Abû 'l-Hasan was born at Medina, A.H.

214, on Sunday, the 13th of Rajab (Sept. A. D. 829); others say on the day of Arafa (the 9th of Za l-Hijja); some persons again place his birth in the year 213. Al-Mutawakkil was at length induced, by the numerous unfavourable accounts which he received of Abû ’l-Hasan's conduct, to have bim taken from Medina and sent to Sarr-man-râa. This town was also called al-Askar (the army), because al-Motasim, the prince who built it, removed his army (from Baghdad) to that station. It was on account of his residence there that Abu 'l-Hasan was surnamed al-Askari. He passed twenty years and nine months at that place, and he died there on Monday, the 24th of the latter Jumada, A.H. 254 (June, A. D. 868). Others place his death on the 25th or on the 4th of that month; some again say that he died on the 3rd of Rajab of the year just mentioned. He was interred in the house where he dwelt.

(1) When the sovereign gave audience, one or more curtains were always drawn between him and the public. In old times, the number of curtains was seven, and they were placed at some distance from each other.

ALI IBN ABD ALLAH IBN AL-ABBAS.

Abú Muhammad Ali Ibn Abd Allah Ibn al-Abbâs Ibn Abd al-Muttalib Ibn Hashim al-Hashimi, grandfather to the khalifs as-Saftâh and al-Mansûr, was the youngest son of his father. Distinguished for the eminence of his rank, the nobleness of his descent, and his talent as an elegant speaker, he was equally conspicuous for his beauty, wherein he surpassed every other member of the tribe of Koraish. “He possessed five hundred olive-trees, and he said every

day a prayer of two rakas at the foot of each : he was called Za 'th-Tha

finât.—So says al-Mubarrad in his Kâmil, but the håfiz Abû 'l-Faraj Ibn alJauzi states, in his Kitab al-Alkâb, that the person who bore this surname was Ali Ibn al-Husain (Zain al-Akbidin) and that he was so denominated because he prayed one thousand rakas every day, so that callosities (thafinál) were formed on his knees like those on the limbs of camels.—It is related that Ali Ibn Abi Talib

66

missed Ibn Abbâs one day at the prayer of noon and asked the persons present what could be his motive for staying away; they replied that a son was born to him, and when the prayer was over, Ali said: “Let us go and see him.” On entering, he congratulated Ibn Abbâs and then said: “I thank the Giver and

mayest thou find a blessing in the gift! what name has he received from you ?-“Would it be right for me,” replied Ibn Abbâs, “to give him a name and not “ wait till thou shouldst do it?” Ali then told them to bring the child, and having taken it in his arm, he chewed a date and rubbed the roof of its mouth with it (1); he then handed it to the father, saying: “Here! take it, Abù ’l-Am“ làk (2); I give it Ali for a name and Abú l-Hasan for a surname.”—When Moawia got possession of the khalifate, he said to Ibn Abbâs : “ None of your

family should bear the same name and surname as that man; I shall call the “ child Abu Muhammad.”— This appellation then became current as his surname. It is al-Mubarrad who relates this anecdote in his Kâmil, but the hâfiz Abû Noaim says in his Hilyat al-Awlid : “When Ali Ibn Abd Allah went to see “ Abd al-Malik Ibn Marwàn, that khalif said to him: Change thy name and

thy surname, for I cannot bear to hear them pronounced.' The other re

plied : “As for the name, no; but as for the surname, give me that of Abû “Muhammad.' It was thus that his surname was changed.”—I must observe that Abd al-Malik's motive in speaking so was the hatred which he bore to Ali Ibn Abi Talib, and this was so excessive that he could not endure to hear his 447 name and surname pronounced. Al-Wakidi says that Abû Muhammad was born on the night in which Ali was murdered (a statement in contradiction to that made by al-Mubarrad), and God alone knoweth the truth.— Al-Mubarrad says also (3): “Ali (Ibn Abd Allah) was flogged twice, and, each time, by the order “ of al-Walid Ibn Abd al-Malik. The first time was for having married Lu“ båba (4), the daughter of Abd Allah Ibn Jaafar Ibn Abi Tålib. She had been “ already married to Abd Malik, but one day he took a bite out of an apple and “ handed her the rest. Now, as he had a bad breath, she called for a knife, “and being asked by him what she wanted to do with it, she replied : ‘To cut “ off the part of the apple which is spoiled.' He immediately divorced her, and “ she was taken in marriage by this Ali Ibn Abd Allah. In consequence of this, “al-Walid flogged him, saying: “Ah! you mean to degrade the khalifs by “ marrying their mothers.' (For it was a motive of this kind which led Mar

VOL. II.

28

« PreviousContinue »