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

p. 98


‘ÍSÁ IBN HISHÁM related to us and said: When exile had taken me as far as Báb al-Abwáb 1 I was content with return as a booty, 2 but there intervened between it the bounding main 3 with its lofty waves, and the ships going out of their courses with their passengers. But I sought a good omen from God concerning returning, and I sat in a most dangerous place in the ship. Now when the sea had got the ascendency over us, and the night enveloped us, there overwhelmed us a cloud raining in torrents 4 and marshalling mountains of mist with a wind which sent the waves along in pairs and the rain in hosts. 5 Thus we were left in the hand of death between two seas, 6 while we possessed no equipment but prayer, no device except weeping, and no protection save hope, and we spent a night of Nabigah! 7 and in the morning we cried and complained to one another. Now there was among us a man whose eyelid was not wetted

p. 99

and whose eye was not moistened; he was expanded and dilated of bosom, 1 light-hearted and glad. Now by Heavens! we were perfectly astonished, and so we said to him! 'What hath given thee security from destruction?' And he said: 'An amulet whose possessor will not drown, and, if I wished to give each of you a charm, 2 I could do so.' So all inclined towards him and were persistent in demanding from him. But he said: 'I will not do so till every one of you gives me a dinar now, and promises me another when he is saved.' Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: 'We paid him down what he demanded and promised him what he stipulated. Then his hand returned to his pocket and he drew forth a piece of silk in which there was an ivory box whose interior 3 enclosed some billets, and he threw each of us one of them.

When the ship got safe to shore and we landed in the city, 4 he demanded of the people what they had promised him, so they paid him. It finally came to my turn, but he said: 'Leave him.' Then I said to him, 'That is thine after thou acquaintest me with the secret of thy condition.' He said, 'I am from the city of Alexandria.' I asked, 'How was it that patience helped thee but forsook us?' He said:--

'Woe, to thee! 5 were it not for patience I had not
Filled my purse with gold.
He will not obtain glory who is impatient
At what befalls him.
Again, what was given me has not now resulted in harm to me.
Rather with it do I strengthen my loins
And bind up the broken.
And if I were to-day among the drowned,
I should not have been troubled for an explanation.' 6



98:1 The Gate of Gates: or Darband, a town in the province of Daghistán on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. To the south lies the seaward extremity of the Caucasian wall (fifty miles long) otherwise known as Alexander's wall, blocking the narrow pass of the Iron Gate, or Caspian Gates. This, when entire, had a height of twenty-nine feet and a thickness of about ten feet and with its iron gates and numerous watch towers formed a valuable defence of the Persian frontier. The walls and the citadel are believed to belong to the time of Anushirwán (A.D. 531-579). Yaqút says the breadth of the wall was 300 cubits or about 150 yards. It was captured in A.H. 19 by the Arabs under Suraqa ibn ‘Amr, also called Dhú’l-Nún. In A.D. 728 the Arabs entered into possession and established a principality in the city which they called Bab al-Abwáb, or the Chief Gate. Harlan al-Rashid lived here at different times and made it famous as a seat of arts and commerce. It was noted for its linen manufacture. (Yaqút, i, 437. Encyclopaedia Britannica, viii, 64.)

98:2 I was content with return as a booty: That is, I was content with return as my only return. Arab Proverbs, i, 537.

98:3 The bounding main: The sea referred to was the Caspian and this is no exaggerated description of its stormy character. The winds from the north and the north-west sometimes blow for days together with great violence, rendering navigation extremely dangerous.

98:4 Raining in torrents: Literally extending ropes of rain.

98:5 In hosts, or troops: An allusion to Qur’án, cx, 2.

98:6 Between two seas: i.e., the torrents above and the sea beneath.

98:7 A night of Nabigah: An allusion to the oft-quoted lines of Nabigah.

And I passed a night as I should have passed had one of the spotted snakes attacked me, the poison of whose fangs is deadly.

99:1 Expanded of bosom: That is, easy in mind.

99:2 A charm: The commentator says (Text, p. 117) that Islám forbids the use of charms, but the statement is unsupported by authority.

99:3 Whose interior: Literally, whose breast.

99:4 We landed in the city: Literally, the city caused us to alight. A very common construction where the adverb is made the subject of the sentence.

99:5 Woe to thee!: Metre, ramal.

99:6 Compare this maqáma with Ḥarírí, pp. 130 and 494.

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