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


‘ÍSÁ IBN HISHÁM related to us and said: When I was coming back from the Pilgrimage with those who were returning, and I alighted at Ḥulwán 3 with those who alighted, I said to my slave: 'I find my hair is long and my body somewhat dirty, 4 so chose for us a bath that we may enter it, and a barber whom we may make use of. Let the bath be of spacious yard, of clean locality, of pure atmosphere and the water of moderate temperature; and let the barber be deft of hand, with a sharp razor and clean dress, and little given to gossip.' So he went out for a long time, 5 returned late, and said: 'I have chosen it as thou described it.' Then we took the direction of the bath and arrived there, but we did not see the keeper. But I went in, and there entered in my track a man who betook himself to a lump of clay, besmeared my forehead with it, and then placed it on my head. Then he went out, and in came another and he began to rub me with a rubbing that grazed my bones, to knead

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me 1 with a kneading which crushed my joints, and to whistle with a whistling that scattered spittle. He next aimed at my head to wash it, and at the water to pour it. Then without delay the first entered and greeted the branch of the occipital artery of the second with a blow of his clenched fist that made his canine teeth rattle, and he said: 'Wretch! what hast thou to do with this head when it is mine?' Then the second turned on the first with a blow of his fist that destroyed his dignity, 2 and he said: 'Nay, but this head is my right, my property, and is in my hands.' Then they fought each other with fisticuffs till they were both exhausted, and, then, with what life was left, they summoned each other to arbitration and came to the keeper of the bath. And the first said: 'I am the owner of this head for I besmeared its forehead and placed upon it its clay.' The second asserted: 'Nay, but I am its owner, for I rubbed its bearer and kneaded his joints.' Said the keeper of the bath: 'Bring me the possessor of the head and I will ask him, "Is this thy head or his?"' So they both came to me and said: 'We want thy evidence, therefore undertake the duty and impose upon thyself the task.' 3 So I arose and went willy nilly. Said the keeper of the bath: 'Man, speak nothing but the truth and witness nought but the fact, and tell me to which of the two belongs this head?' I replied: 'God bless thee! 4 this is my head, it has accompanied me upon the road, and encompassed the Ancient House 5 with me, and I have never doubted but that it was mine.' He said: 'Silence! garrulous fellow;' and then turned to one of the disputants and said: 'Sirrah! how long this contending with the people for this head? Be satisfied, so valueless is it, let it go instead to

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the curse of God and the heat of His hell. Suppose that this head was not, and that we have never seen this he-goat.' Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: 'I arose from that place mortified, put on my clothes in terror, and quickly slipped away from the bath. And I reviled the slave with evil-speaking and contumely and pounded him after the manner of the pounding of gypsum.' 1 Then I said to another: 'Go and fetch me a barber to remove from me this load; 2 and he brought me a man of delicate build, agreeable make, like an image,' and I took to him quickly. Then he came in and said: 'Peace be to thee! From which town art thou?' I replied: 'Qúm'. 3 He said: 'May God prosper thee! From a land of plenty and comfort, the city of the Sunnís. 4 I was present there in its cathedral mosque in the month of Ramaḍán when the lamps had been lit and the taráwiḥ 5 prayers were inaugurated, but, before we knew it, the Nile rose and came and extinguished those lights, but God made me a shoe which I put on when it was green, but there was no embroidery produced on its sleeve. And the boy

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returned to his mother, after I had performed the evening prayer 1 when the shadow is equal. 2 But how was thy pilgrimage? Didst thou perform all its ceremonies as was incumbent? And they cried out: "A marvel! a marvel!" So I looked at the beacon, and how light a thing is war--to the spectators! And I found the Harísah 3 in the same state, and I knew that the matter was decreed and pre-ordained by God. And how long this vexation? And to-day, and to-morrow, and Saturday and Sunday, but I will not be tedious, but what is this prating? And I like thee to know that Mubarrad 4 in grammar wields a keen razor, so do not occupy thyself with the speech of the common people. Now if ability preceded action, 5 I should have shaved thy head. Dost thou consider it advisable that we begin?' Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: 'I was bewildered at his fluency with his malaprop loquacity, and I feared he might prolong his sitting, so I said: "Till to-morrow, if God will." Then I asked those present concerning him, and they said: "This is a man from the country of Alexandria, this climate has disagreed with him and madness has overtaken him, so that

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he babbles the whole day, as you observe, but behind him there is much excellence." I said, "I have heard of him, and his madness grieves me." Then I recited and said:

"I make a firm promise 1 to God in a binding vow,
I will not shave my head as long as I live, even though I suffer inconvenience."'



131:3 Ḥulwán: A town in ‘Iráq in the mountains east of Baghdad.

131:4 My body somewhat dirty: Cf. Ḥarírí, i, 46.

131:5 He went out for a long time: Cf. Qur’án, xix, 47.

132:1 To knead me: Literally, to pinch or squeeze me.

132:2 Destroyed his dignity: Literally, rent his veil.

132:3 Impose upon thyself the task: From a difficult or inconvenient affair. It means to undertake something in spite of the inconvenience.

132:4 God bless thee! Literally, may God preserve thee from sickness, etc.

132:5 The Ancient House: The name given to the Ka‘ba in Qur’án, xxii, 30, because Muslims believe that this was the first edifice built and appointed for the worship of God. See also Qur’án, iii, 90.

133:1 Gypsum: Said to be arabicized because (ﺝ) and (ﺹ) do not ordinarily occur in an Arabic word. Probably from the Persian

133:2 An image, or a likeness: Metonymically applied to a woman or anything that is deemed beautiful. A loan word from Aramaic ‏דִמְיון‎ from the root ‏דמה‎ damá To be like. Cf. Ḥarírí, ii, 611 and Arab Proverbs, i, 408.

133:3 Qúm: A town south-west of Hamadhán; next to Meshed it is the most important place of pilgrimage in Persia. Yaqút writing in the thirteenth century says there was no trace of a non-Muslim in it.

133:4 The city of the Sunnís: Literally, of the practice and the agreement. The point here is that the people of Qum were exclusively Shí‘ah, there was not a Sunní in the city. (See Yaqút, iv, 175.) 'And all its inhabitants are Shí‘ah of the Imámí sect?' Also de Goeji, Collection of Arabian Geographers, id, 259, line 7 where Ibn Ḥauqal, a contemporary of the author, says: 'Shí’sm prevails at Qum'; also see Letters, p. 423. This is the first of a number of amazing malapropisms.

133:5 Taráwiḥ prayers: A form of prayer performed at some period during the night in the month of Ramadan, after the ordinary prayer of nightfall, consisting of twenty or more rak’as, according to the different persuasions, so called because the performer rests after each which consists of four rak’as, or because they used to rest between every two pairs of salutations. (Lane, Lexicon, p. 1183; See also Letters, p. 424.)

134:1 The evening prayer: Literally, the first part or third of the night. after the setting of the light of the and the time of the prayers of nightfall; but the calling of that prayer the prayer of the as the Arabs of the desert named it, instead of calling it is forbidden by the Shafa’í code (Minhadj at-Ṭalibin, ii, 61). Hence the malapropism.

134:2 When the shadow is equal: Another malapropism.

134:3 Al-Harísah: A kind of thick pottage prepared of cooked bruised wheat, fleshmeat, butter, almonds, vegetables, etc. (See Mas‘údí, viii, 402-3.) It is said to have been invented by the Sásánians and to have been the favourite dish of Anushirwán.

134:4 Al-Mubarrad (A.H. 210-286): The well-known eminent philologer and grammarian, author of the Kámil (edited by Wright). Ibn Khallikan, iii, 31.

134:5 Now if ability preceded action: A reference to the technical language of the Ash’arite school representing the orthodox opinion that 'the ability (istitá’a) to do the action goes along with the action and is the essence of the power (Qudra) by which the action takes places'. (Macdonald, Muslim Theology, p. 310.) This was how the orthodox disposed of the doctrine of free will. On the other hand, the partisans of the Freedom of the Will maintained that the ability to do is always present. It is possible that Hamadhání may have been aware of the Aristotelian treatment of the question of ἐνεργεια and δυναμις. Translations of Aristotle's works were to be found in the library of the Ṣáḥib to which the author probably had free access during his stay at the Wazír's court from A.H. 380.

135:1 I make a firm promise: Metre, ramal.

Next: XXXIV. The Maqáma of Fresh Butter