Sacred Texts  Islam  Index  Previous  Next 

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


‘ÍSÁ IBN HISHÁM related to us and said: I was at Nishapur 2 on a Friday so I presented myself at the obligatory3 When I had performed it there passed by me a man who had donned a tall hat and turned a portion of his turban beneath his chin 4 like the Sunni's. So I asked the worshipper at my side, 'Who is this?' He said: 'This is a moth that attacks none but the woollen garment of the orphans, a locust that falls upon none but the forbidden crop, a burglar that breaks into 5 none but the treasury of pious bequests, a Kurd that raids upon none but the weak, a wolf that preys upon none but God's servants, between their kneeling and prostration, a warrior that plunders nothing but God's property, under cover of covenants and witnesses. He has donned his tall hat but doffed his piety; he has conventionally put on his cloak but perverted the use of his, hand

p. 151

and tongue; he has clipped short his moustache 1 but lengthened his snares; he has displayed his vehement eloquence, 2 but covered up his defects; he has whitened his beard, 3 but blackened his record; he has paraded his abstinence, but concealed his greed.' I said: 'May God curse the fellow! but who art thou?' He replied: 'I am a man known as al-Iskanderí.' I said: 'May God bless the land 4 that grew this excellence, and the father that left this progeny, and, where art thou going?' He answered, 'To the Ka‘ba.' So I said: 'Excellent! Excellent! is its feast, though still unprepared! We are, in that case, fellow-travellers.' He said: 'How is that, when I am going up and thou art going down?' I asked: 'How canst thou go up to the Ka‘ba?' He replied: 'But I am going to the Ka‘ba of the needy, not to the Ka‘ba of the pilgrims, to the station of generosity not the station of sanctity, 5 to the house of captives, 6 not to the house of sacrifices, to the source of gifts, 7 not the Qibla 8 of prayer, to the desire 9 of guests, not to the Mina of Khaif.' 10 I asked: 'And where are these excellences?' Then he indited saying:--

p. 152

'Where are the Faith and the king 1 strengthened with might,
Through whom the cheek of noble deeds is dyed rosy red.
In a land where hopes flourish,
For Khalaf ibn Aḥmad is its rain-cloud.'



150:2 Nishapur (Naisabur): A well-known town, the capital of the province of the same name, situated forty-nine miles west of Meshed. It was captured by the Arabs in A.H. 31. Yaqút in his Geographical Dictionary, iv, 757, referring to this place says of all the cities he had visited Naisabur (Nishapur) was the finest. It was in this city, says Tha‘alibi (Yatima, iv, 168) that Hamadhání wrote his four hundred maqámát and vanquished his great literary rival the renowned Abú Bakr al-Khwárazmí.

150:3 The obligatory: See Qur’án, lxii, 9, which commands attendance at congregational worship on Fridays.

150:4 Turned a portion of his turban beneath the chin: Ibn al-Athír refers to a tradition of the prophet wherein the people were commanded to tie the extremity of the turban under the chin and were forbidden to do otherwise. (Niháyah under )

150:5 Breaks into: Literally, bores.

151:1 Clipped short his moustache: Still regarded as an outward mark of piety.

151:2 His vehement eloquence: From he (a camel) brayed in his shiq-shiqa, or faucial bag. The primary meaning is loudness of voice and then vehement eloquence. Shiqshiqa is also the name of a sermon preached by ‘Alí and interrupted by a member of the congregation, a man from ‘Iráq, handing him a letter. When desired by Ibn ‘Abbás to continue his address, ‘Alí answered: 'Alas! Ibn ‘Abbás, the Shiqshiqa has roared and subsided', meaning that the inspiration of the moment had gone. [Nahaj al-Balágha, p. 26 (Beyrut ed. A.H. 1308)]. The saying became proverbial. See Freytag, Arab Proverbs, i, 673.

151:3 Whitened his beard: To give himself a venerable appearance.

151:4 God bless the land!: Literally, may God water the land!

151:5 The station of sanctity: That is, Muzdalifa.

151:6 The house of captives: The spoils of his victorious campaigns.

151:7 Gifts and prayer: See De Sacy, Ḥarírí, i, 18 for a similar play on these words.

151:8 Qibla: That part of the horizon, or of a mosque, which is in the direction of Mecca towards which Muslims turn to say their prayers.

151:9 Desire: Text, p. 201, line 5, for read .

151:10 Mina al-Khaif: A small town near Mecca, to which the pilgrims descend on the morning of the ‘Id.

152:1 Where are the Faith and the king: Metre, wafir. These expressions regarding the two Ka‘bas will be found in No. 38, page 101, of Hamadhání's Letters. They are cited by Tha‘álibí (Yatíma iv, 176) as a specimen of Hamadhání's elegant epistolary style. They are also quoted by Ibn Khallikan, 113. Their chief merit consists of a mere play on words impossible to preserve in a rendering into English. For similar and additional criticisms of the Qáḍí and a description of what a Qáḍí should be, see the Author's Letters, pp. 168-9.

Next: XL. The Maqáma of Knowledge