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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 Baṣra I was going proudly along until my walk led me to an open space in which many people were assembled before a man who was standing, admonishing them and saying: 'O people, ye have not been left without control.' 6 Verily joined to to-day is to-morrow. 7 Ye are descending into a deep place, therefore prepare against it what force ye are able. And verily after this life is the judgement, 8 therefore get provisions ready for it. Behold there is no excuse, for the highway has been made clear unto you. God's case against you is clear, 9 by revelation from Heaven and by examples on earth. Lo! Verily He, who with knowledge created the race, maketh the dry bones live.

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[paragraph continues] Is not the world indeed a house of probation and a bridge to cross? He who traverses it is saved, but he who hoards up the world repenteth. Behold it has laid the snare and spread the grain for you. Therefore whoever pastures there will be entrapped, and whoever picks up the grain will be ensnared. Lo! poverty was the garb of your Prophet, 1 therefore wear it; but wealth is the robe of rebellion against God, therefore put it not on. False are the imaginations of the perverters of the truth 2 who have denied the Faith and made the Qur’án discordant. 3 Verily after life is the grave, 'and ye were not created in sport.' 4 Therefore beware of the heat of Hell-fire and hasten to the eternal home. Verily knowledge, whatever its failings, is good, and ignorance is bad under all conditions. Ye are surely the most wretched overshadowed by the heavens if, through you, the learned are in distress, for men are judged by their leaders, and, if the people are led by their influence, 5 they are saved by their responsibility.

Men are divided into two classes, the observant scholar and the striving student, as for the rest, they are abandoned ostriches and beasts pasturing at pleasure. Woe to him of high degree commanded by one beneath him, and woe to the knower of something who is ruled by one ignorant of it! I have heard that ‘Alí ibn al-Ḥusain 6 was standing admonishing the people and saying: 'O soul, how long wilt thou rely upon life, and depend upon the world and its building up? Hast thou not taken warning from those of thy ancestors who have passed away, from

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those of thy friends whom the earth has covered up, from those of thy brethren who have been smitten, and from those of thy fellows who have been transported to the house of decay?

In the bowels of the earth 1 are they after having been upon its back.
Their virtues decaying and forgotten therein.
Their houses are emptied of them and their enclosures are void,
And the Fates have driven them deathwards.
They have left the world and what they had collected therein,
And under the earth the pits have embraced them.'

How many ages, one after the other, have Death's hands snatched away, and what changes have they produced by their calamities and how many great men have they concealed beneath the dust!

'And thou art intent upon the world, 2 vying
With its suitors for her, covetous and boasting of thy superior substance.
Thou goest into danger and art unmindful.
Didst thou but understand, wouldst thou not know to what danger thou exposest thyself?
And verily the man, who endeavours and strives after this world,
And neglects the next, is without doubt a loser.'

Mark the dead nations and defunct kings, how the days overthrew them, and death destroyed them, so that their traces have been obliterated  3 and but a tale of them remaineth.

'They are decayed in the dust 4 and devoid
Of them are the assemblies, and the spacious apartments have become desolate.

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They have left the world and what they had collected therein,
And none of them succeeded but the perseveringly patient.
And they have alighted in an abode where there is no exchange of visits;
For how can there be intercourse between the tenants of the tomb?
Thou seest nought but the level grave, in which they abide,
And over which the whirlwind carries the dust.'

Many a man hast thou seen possessed of might and power, armies and allies who has gained the world and obtained from it his desire. He built fortresses and castles 1 and collected precious things and forces.

'But the treasures diverted not death's hand 2 when it appeared suddenly desiring him.
Nor did the fortresses surrounded by moats and the castles, which he had built, protect him!
No device overcame death for him, nor were his armies eager to defend him.'

O people beware! beware! and hasten, O hasten away from the world and her mischiefs, and from the traps she has laid for you, from her appearing in her adornment before you and in her loveliness raising her eyes towards you.

'But less affliction than thou seest 3 sufficeth to summon thee to abandon it and to exhort thee to piety.

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So strive and be not negligent, for thy life is fleeting, and thou art returning to the abode of death.
And seek not the world, for the pursuit of it, even if thou obtainest thy desire from it, injures thee.'

How can a wise man covet, or a sagacious person be pleased with it, when he is sure of its perishing? Do ye not wonder at him who sleeps, while he fears death, and hopeth not for escape?

'Nay, nay, but we delude our own souls 1 and worldly delights preoccupy them to the exclusion of what they apprehended.
And how can he enjoy pleasure who is certain of the standing-place of justice where all secret thoughts and actions shall be examined into? 2
It is as though we thought there is no resurrection and that we are left at liberty and that, after dissolution, there is no future state for us.' 3

How many of those, who have inclined towards it, hath the world deceived, and many a one of those intent upon it has fallen, and it raised him not from his stumbling, 4 nor excused him for his falling. It healed him not of his sickness, nor relieved him of his pain.

'Rather has it brought him down, 5 after his possessing might and rank,
To evil watering-places from which there is no climbing out. 6
So when he saw there was no escape, and that

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It was death, from which the helpers could not save him,
He sought repentance, if length of repentance could avail him,
And his heinous crimes caused him to weep.'

He wept over his past sins, and felt regret for what he was leaving of the world, when weeping profited him not, and excuse delivered him not.

'His sorrows and cares encompassed him, 1
And, when excuses baffled him, he despaired. 2
Therefore he hath no saviour from the pains of death,
Nor helper from that which is avoided.
His throat rattled 3 before death,
While the uvula and the larynx re-echoed it.'

How long wilt thou mend thy present condition at the expense of thy future state, and, in so doing, ride upon thy desire? Verily I perceive thee to be weak in assurance, O patcher of thy present condition with thy religion. Has the merciful God commanded thee to do this, or the Qur’án guided thee so?

'Thou destroyest that which remaineth, 4 and buildest that which perisheth,
But neither is this complete nor that abiding.
If then thy end come suddenly upon thee,
When thou hast acquired no good, hast thou an excuser with God?
Art thou content that life should pass and end,
While thy religion is deficient and thy wealth complete?'

Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: I asked one of those present: 'Who is this?' He replied: 'A stranger who arrived by night? I

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know him not personally, so wait for the end of his discourse, 1 perhaps he will tell his name.' So I waited. Then he said: 'Adorn knowledge with practice and show gratitude for power by practising forgiveness. Take the clear and leave the muddy. 2 May God forgive you and me!' Then he started off. So I followed in his track and said to him: 'O Shaikh, who art thou?' He replied: 'Good Gracious! art thou not satisfied with pondering over externals, that thou madest for the truth and then failed to recognize it? 3 I am Abú’l-Fatḥ al-Iskánderí.'

I said: 'May God preserve thee, but what is this hoariness?' He answered:--

'A warner, but a silent one, 4
And a guest, but a gloating one,
The messenger of death, but
Verily he will stay on 5 till I accompany him.'  6



104:6 Left without control: An allusion to Qur’án, lxxv, 36.

104:7 Verily joined to to-day is to-morrow: Freytag, Arab Proverbs, i, 45.

104:8 Judgement: Literally, return.

104:9 God's case against you is clear: Cf. Qur’án, iv, 163.

105:1 Poverty was the garb of your Prophet: An allusion to the tradition () 'Poverty is my glory'. For poverty of the Prophets, see Tha‘álibí, Thamar al-Kutub, p. 49.

105:2 The imaginations of the perverters of the truth: from he disputed or wrangled, is applied to one who swerves from the truth and introduces into it that which does not belong to it. is especially applied to the Esoterics (Báṭinites) who assert that the Qur’án has an outward and inward sense, the latter differing from the former and known to them. According to al-Farq bain al-Fir‘aq, they denied the resurrection. Hibbert Lectures, p. 218.

105:3 Who have made the Qur’án discordant: Qur’án, xv, 91.

105:4 Ye were not created in sport: Qur’án, xxiii, 117.

105:5 Led by their influence: Literally, by their reins.

105:6 ‘Alí ibn al-Ḥusain: (A.H. 38-941, generally known by the appellation Zain al-‘Abidín, was the grandson of ‘Alí. Ibn Khallikan, ii, 209-11.

106:1 In the bowels of the earth: Metre, tawíl.

106:2 And thou art intent upon the world: Metre, tawíl.

106:3 Their traces have been obliterated: Contrast this statement with the lines:

'These are our works (literally remains, or traces) which prove what we have done, look, therefore, at our works when we are gone.'

106:4 They are decayed in the dust: Metre, tawíl.

107:1 Castles: Plural of Arabicized from Talmud. ‏דימקרהא‎ name of various villages, probably originally from Διοσκουριας or the like, from Διοσκοῦροι (Stephanus Byzanthinos). A country seat. See Bukhárí (edited by Krehl) i, 9. Also a wine hall or saloon (Ḥarírí, i, 140). The word also occurs in the lines of Ibn al-Ḥájib on the Aiwán () quoted by Yaqút, i, 426.

These pavilions, pleasure houses, buildings and castles of our Kisra Anushirwán. It is probable Hamadhání had the Aiwán in mind when he composed or quoted these lines.

107:2 But the treasures diverted not death's hand: Metre, tawíl.

107:3 But less affliction than thou seest: Metre, tawíl.

108:1 Nay, nay, but we delude our own souls: Metre, tawíl.

108:2 Secret thoughts and actions shall be examined into: An allusion to Qur’án, lxxxvi, 9.

108:3 Future state: Plural of literally, a place or state to which a person or thing eventually comes.

108:4 It raised him not from his stumbling: Another and better reading: . It excused him not his stumbling, nor raised him from his falling.

108:5 Rather has it brought him down: Metre, tawíl.

108:6 From which there is no climbing out: Cf. Kitáb al-Bayan wa’l-Tabyin, i, 119.

109:1 His sorrows encompassed him: Metre, tawíl.

109:2 He despaired: The Muslim name for the Devil is said to be derived from this verb because he despairs of God's mercy. Iblís is probably a corruption of diabolos.

109:3 His throat rattled: From ; literally, he drove away a dog. The explanation of this sentence seems to be, his soul fled before death while the uvula and the larynx turned it back. Figurative for death throes.

109:4 Thou destroyest that which remaineth: Metre, tawíl.

110:1 So wait for the end of his discourse: Here Hamadhání uses the word maqáma for a religious discourse or sermon.

110:2 Take the clear and leave the muddy: Take what is free from trouble and leave what is attended therewith.

110:3 Failed to recognize: Literally, thou didst change it, that is thy mind. Abú’l-Fat'? chides ‘Ísá ibn Hishám for thinking him to be some one else when he knew who he was.

110:4 A warner, but a silent one: Metre, mutaqárib.

110:5 will stay on: Unlike any ordinary messenger who delivers his message and departs.

110:6 An excellent example of a sermon in rhymed prose and verse on the vanity of human life and the certainty of death and judgement, of which the eleventh maqáma of Ḥarírí is a close imitation. There is little reference to future reward or punishment. Cf. Ḥarírí, i, 14 and 121.

Next: XXVII. The Maqáma of Al-Aswad