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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 in my young days, I rode my mount into every species of blind folly and urged my courser into every kind of error until I had drunk of life a delicious draft and had donned the flowing robes of fortune. But when the day brightened 5 my night and I gathered up my skirts 6 and prepared for the final judgement, I mounted a tame steed 7 in order to discharge a bounden duty. 8 There accompanied me on the road a friend in whom I saw nothing wrong to make me repudiate him. Now, when we had exchanged confessions and confidences, the story revealed that he was a Kúfan by principle and a Ṣúfí by persuasion, 9 and so we travelled on.

Now, when we alighted at Kúfa, 10 we went to his house and

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entered it, when the face of day had become sombre 1 and its cheeks darkened. 2 Then, when the eye of the night had drooped, and the dawn on its lip had sprouted, there was a knock at the door. 3 We asked, 'What wanderer is knocking?' He answered: 'The envoy of night and its messenger, the defeated and hunted of hunger, a well-bred personage in the leash of misfortune and bad times; a guest, whose tread is light 4 and whose stray 5 is a loaf; a neighbour who asks aid against hunger and a patched smock; an exile after whose departure the fire of banishment 6 was kindled, in whose wake the howling dogs have barked, after whom pebbles were cast and the areas swept. 7 His jaded camel is fatigue; his pleasure is affliction, and between him and his two chicks is a vast desert.' Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám; I took from my purse the lion's share, 8 passed it to him and said, 'Increase thy demands and we will increase our gifts to thee.' He replied, 'No fire so hot to cause aloeswood to diffuse its fragrance as that of generosity, and the envoy of benevolence is met by no one better than the messenger of gratitude. Therefore, whoever possesses plenty, let him do good, for generosity will not pass unrewarded 9 by God and man. But as for thee, may God cause

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thee to realise thy hopes and give thee the supreme hand. 1 Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: Then we opened the door for him and said 'Enter' and lo! by Heavens, it was our Shaikh Abú’l-Fatḥ al-Iskanderí! So I said:' 'Distressing is the extreme poverty which thou hast reached and this aspect especially.' Then he smiled, and indited, saying:--

'Let not my demanding deceive thee,
I am in a state of affluence 2 so great that the pocket of joy would tear,
I could, if I wished, have ceilings of gold.' 3



38:5 Day brightened: Fig. for had turned grey.

38:6 I gathered up my skirts: Fig. for preparing to do something. Cf. Eng. to take off one's coat, or to tuck up one's sleeves.

38:7 A tame steed: Literally, broken in.

38:8 A bounden duty: i.e. the Pilgrimage. See Qur’án, iii, 91.

38:9 A Ṣúfí by persuasion: A Ṣúfí is naturally known by his dress.

38:10 Kúfa: Founded by the Arabs in A.H. 17 or 18 in the Khalífate of ‘Umar. It was one of the chief seats of Arabian learning and was long the rival of the great grammatical school of Baṣra.

p. 39 Kúfa and Baṣra were the resort of the pious and of the adventurer, the centres of religious and political movements.

‘Alí is said to have called the former, the treasure-house of the Faith and the proof of Islám.

39:1 The face of day had become sombre: Literally, the face of day was covered with vegetation. .

39:2 Darkened: Literally became green, both of these and the succeeding expressions are figures for the growing of a beard and here, metaphorically, signify it became dark.

39:3 There was a knock at the door: Cf. De Sacy, Ḥarírí, i. 50.

39:4 Whose tread is light: i.e. one who will cause little inconvenience.

39:5 whose stray: Literally, a stray camel.

39:6 The fire of banishment: () (Cf. Hamadhání's Letters, No. 128, p. 352), or the fire of departure was a solemn cursing of a man by his enemy when he set out on a journey, The fire was lighted, and the ill-wisher exclaimed 'Away! begone!' For the names of the various fires of the Arabs, see Jáḥiz, Haywán Part v.

39:7 And the areas were swept: As is done after a death has occurred.

39:8 The lion's share: Literally, the grasp of the lion.

39:9 Generosity will not pass unrewarded, etc. This is a quotation from the lines of Ḥuṭai‘ah who was a contemporary of the Prophet:

p. 40 'Whosoever doeth good will not lose his reward. For generosity will not go unrewarded by God and man.' That is to say, if man does not reward, God will. The Arabs believed this to be a quotation from the Taurát. Aghání, ii, 48 and Goldziher's edition of Ḥutai‘ah's poems.

40:1 The supreme hand: Here used in the sense of the upper, or giving hand, as opposed to the lower, or receiving hand.

Cf. the rabbinical maxim:

‏כל מי שׁה כסף בידי ידו על העליונה‎

'Whoever has money (silver) in his hand, his hand is supreme. See note on in the maqáma of the Yellow', Text p. 230.

40:2 I am in a state of affluence: Metre, khafif.

40:3 Ceilings of gold: A boast rather inconsistent with his actual condition. The Constantinople edition has this additional line. 'Sometimes I am a Nabatean at other times an Arab.'

This maqámá is identical in name and theme with Hariri v, 49.

Next: VI. The Maqáma of the Lion