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The Maqámát of Badí‘ al-Zamán al-Hamadhání, tr. W.J. Prendergast [1915] at

p. 100


‘ÍSÁ IBN HISHÁM related to us and said: I entered the asylum 1 of Baṣra and there was with me Abú Dá’úd the scholastic divine. 2 And I beheld a madman  3 who was glancing at me. Said he: 'If the augury bird is right ye are strangers.' And we answered: 'It is so.' He said: 'Who are the people? How excellent are their fathers!' I replied: 'I am 'Ibn Hishám and this is Abú Dá’úd the theologian.' He enquired: 'Al-’Askarí?' I said: 'Yes.' Then he exclaimed: 'May the faces be disfigured and the possessors thereof! Verily free-will 4 belongs to God and not to his slave, and affairs are in the hands of God and not in his. Ye Magians of this community 5 ye live predestined lives, and die victims of a merciless fate. Ye are forcibly driven doomwards. 'And, if ye had been in your houses, 6 verily they would have gone forth to fight, whose slaughter was decreed, to the places where they died.' 7 If the fact be as ye describe it, why are ye not just? Ye assert, the

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creator of oppression is an oppressor, then why do ye not say, the creator of death is mortal? Do ye not surely know that, as to religion, ye are viler than the Devil, who said, 'Lord because thou hast seduced me,' 1 for he confessed, but ye have denied; he believed but ye have disbelieved. Ye say man has been given free choice and so he chooses. Never! for the free agent would not rip open his stomach, nor pluck out his eye, nor hurl his son from a crag. Is, therefore, compulsion aught but what ye perceive it? Now compulsion is sometimes enforced by reason and sometimes by the scourge. Let it be to your shame that the Qur’án rouses hatred in you and the Tradition angers you. When ye hear, 'he whom God causeth to err 2 shall have no guide, ye pervert it.' 3 And when ye hear, 'The earth contracted for me 4 and I was shown its east and its west', ye disbelieve it. When ye hear, 'Paradise was so manifested to me 5 that I attempted to pluck its fruits, and Hell fire was so exhibited to me that I shielded myself from the heat thereof with my hand,' ye wag your heads and turn your necks awry. If it be said 'The torture of the tomb,' ye presage evil, or if it be said, 'The bridge,' ye wink at one another. If the 'balances' 6 are mentioned, ye say: 'Its two scales consist of emptiness'. If the 'Book' be spoken of, ye say: 'The two sides of it are of leather.' 7 Ye enemies of the Book and the Tradition! of what do ye presage evil? Do ye mock God and his signs and his Apostle? 8 A faction seceded 9 and they were the dross of the Tradition. Then ye separated yourselves from it, therefore ye

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are the dross of the corrupt. Hermaphrodites of the Khárijites! 1 Ye are of their opinion except as to fighting, and thou, Ibn Hishám, thou believest in part 2 and rejectest in part. I have heard thou hast selected for thy bed a fiend from among them. Hath God not forbidden thee to take an intimate associate 3 from among them? Woe to thee! makest thou not a good selection for thy seed? And dost thou pay no regard to thy posterity?' Then he prayed: 'O God! Give me in exchange for them better than they and place me with thy heavenly messengers.' Said ‘Ísá. ibn Hishám: 'I could not, nor could Abú Dá’úd return a reply and we went away from him in disgrace and verily I was conscious of humiliation in Abú Dá’úd until we desired to separate. He said: '‘Ísá, by thy father! This is the fact, but what did he mean by a female fiend?' I answered, 'By Heavens! I know not, except that I had resolved to ask one of them in marriage, but I had not mentioned what I intended to any one. By God! I will never do it.' Then he said: 'By Heavens! this is none other than a devil in bonds.' So we returned and stood before him. And we hastened to speak and we began questioning. He said: 'Perhaps you both wish to know of my affair that which you denied.' We said: 'Thou wert previously acquainted with our affairs and now thou art not mistaken as to what is in our minds. 4 So explain thy affair to us and reveal thy secret to us. He recited:

'I am the fountain of wonders. 5
In my devising I am the possessor of high degrees.

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In truth, I am the camel's hump. 1
In vanity, I am its withers. 2
Alexandria is my home, an aimless
Wanderer am I on God's earth.
In the monastery I am an abbot,
In the masjid an ascetic.' 3



100:1 The asylum: Arabicized from the Persian a hospital.

100:2 Abú Dá’úd the scholastic divine: The person referred to is evidently Abú Bakr Muḥammad ibn Abdullah al-’Askarí the chief Qáḍí of the Khalífa Al-Mahdí (A.D. 775-84) at Ruṣáfa. He was one of the most famous of the Mu’tazilás (al-Ansáb of al-Sam’aní, p. 392).

100:3 a madman: Literally, possessed by a jinn, demon, or demoniac.

100:4 Free-will: The doctrine of free-will was no new idea, for we are told that al-’Aasha, a contemporary of the Prophet, was a believer in it and that he had been instructed therein by the ‘Ibádites, or Christians, of al-Híra from whom he used to buy wine. Aghání, viii, 76. The orthodox belief is expressed in Arab Proverbs, ii, 405. 'Had I been given free choice, I should have chosen'. [Cf. Life of Muḥammad (Wüstenfeld) Band, iv, 1011]. The Mu‘tazilís were the partisans of free-will () as opposed to orthodox fatalism or predestination (). For an excellent account of the origin and development of this sect, see Professor Browne, Literary History of Persia, i, 281-92; Hibbert Lectures, v, 214; Shahrastání, al-Milal wa’l-Nihal (Cunton's ed.), pp. 29-30 and Sell, The Faith of Islám (3rd ed.), pp. 194-206.

100:5 Magians of this community: An allusion to the spurious tradition 'The partisans of free-will are the Magians of the Church', quoted by Abú’l-Ḥasan al-‘Ash’arí (A, H. 270-330), in the Ibána, p. 73, as a genuine tradition.

100:6 If ye had been in your houses: Qur’án, iii, 148.

100:7 The places where they died: Literally, sleeping-places.

101:1 Because thou hast seduced me: Qur’án, xv, 39.

101:2 Whom God causeth to err: Qur’án, vii, 185.

101:3 Ye pervert it: Literally ye turn away from the apparent meaning and twist it. This is an allusion to the Báṭinites who assert that the Qur’án has an outward sense and an inward meaning differing from the former and known to them, i.e. the literal and the allegorical.

101:4 The earth contracted for me: Íbn al-Athír, Niháyah, ii, 82.

101:5 Paradise was manifested to me: ibid.

101:6 The balances: Of Justice and equity in mutual dealings. Qur’án, iv, 6.

101:7 Of leather: i.e., something created and not uncreate. An allusion to the dogma that the Qur’án is uncreate and the belief of the heterodox that it is something created.

101:8 God and His signs and His Apostle: Qur’án, ix, 66.

101:9 A faction seceded: An allusion to the withdrawal of Wáṣit ibn ‘Aṭá, the founder of the Mu‘tazila sect.

102:1 The Khárijites: 'The Seceders, or Theocratic Separatists'. The pious fanatics in ‘Alí's army who forced him to submit to arbitration at the battle of Siffin (A.D. 657) and afterwards blamed him for doing so, and, because he would not publicly confess, what they denounced as his disloyalty to God for having submitted the question of the succession to the Khalífate, for which he and Mu‘áwíya, the Governor of Syria, were contending, to arbitration, they seceded from him, No less than twelve thousand of these fanatical malcontents separated themselves from him and adopted as their war-cry, 'Arbitration belongs to God alone'. Browne, Literary of History of Persia, i, 220. Al-Fakhrí (Ahlwardt), p. 114.

102:2 Thou believest in part: An allusion to Qur’án, ii, 79.

102:3 an intimate associate: Literally the lining of a garment; metaphorically an intimate and familiar friend. In the text it means a wife. See Qur’án, iii, 114.

102:4 Minds: Literally, breasts.

102:5 I am the fountain of wonders: Metre, ramal.

103:1 The camel's hump: Figure for height or prominence.

103:2 Withers: Figure for less high, or less prominent.

103:3 In this maqáma the author introduces an extremely polemical subject, the doctrines of free-will and predestination. Abú’1-Fatḥ in the character of a madman in bonds champions the orthodox opinion, and Abú Dá’úd and ‘Ísá ibn Hishám, the partisans of free-will, are silenced and discomfited. Hamadhání's own opinion was clearly against the doctrine of free-will. See his Letters, pp. 27-8.

Next: XXV. The Maqáma of the Famine