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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 Abú’l-Fatḥ al-Iskanderí equipped his son for commerce, he made him sit down to admonish him. After he had praised God and re-praised Him, and blessed His Apostle--May God bless and save him!--he said: 'O my dear son, though I rely upon the soundness of thy wisdom and the purity of thy stock, still I am solicitous 2 and the solicitous augurs ill. And I am not free from fear for thee on account of desire and its power, and lust and its demon. Therefore seek aid against them, in the day by fasting, and in the night by sleeping. Verily it is a garb whose exterior is hunger and whose interior is sleep, and no lion has ever put it on whose fierceness has not been softened. Hast thou understood them both, O son of the vile woman? 3

And, as I fear the consequences of that on thee, I am not reassured as to the effect upon thee of two thieves, one of them is generosity, and the name of the other is greediness. 4

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'Beware of these two! Verily generosity is quicker in consuming wealth than the moth-worm 1 is in wool, and greediness is more unlucky than Basús. 2 Do not quote me their saying, "Verily God is generous", that is a ruse to wean the child. Yea, verily God is indeed generous, but God's generosity increases us but does not decrease Him; it benefits us, but does not injure Him. Now whoever is in this condition let him be generous. But a generosity that does not increase thee till it decreases me, that does not feather thee till it plucks me, 3 is an abandonment, I will not say 4 a fiendish one but a fatal one. Hast thou

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understood them, O son of the unlucky woman? Verily merchandise brings water out of the stones. 1 And imagine between one meal and another an ocean gale, except that there is no danger, and the distance to China, except that there is no travel. Wilt thou abandon it when it is presented and then seek it where it is not to be had? Perish thy mother! Hast thou understood them both?

Verily it is wealth--May God bless thee!--therefore be sure not to spend except from the profits. Thou shouldest eat bread and salt, and thou hast permission in regard to vinegar and onions, as long as thou feelest no repugnance towards them and dost not unite them. And flesh is as valuable as thine own flesh and methinks thou eatest it not. And sweetmeat is the food of him who cares not on which side he falls. 2 And one meal a day 3 is the fare of the pious. And eating, when hungry, is a protection against loss, but, when sated, it invites death. Then be with people like the chess 4 player, take all they have and keep all thou hast. O my dear son, I have caused thee to hear and delivered the message, therefore, if thou accept it, God will be sufficient for thee, but, if thou reject it, God will be thy reckoner. God bless our Lord Muḥammad, his family and his companions all.'


153:2 Still I am solicitous: An allusion to the proverbial saying: 'Verily the very solicitous, or affectionate, is addicted to evil opinion' (Lane's Lexicon, p. 1573), i.e. he fears for his friend the accidents of time.

153:3 O son of the vile woman: An example of playful abuse.

153:4 Greediness: Literally, intense longing for meat.

154:1 Quicker than the moth-worm: The proverb is more voracious than the moth-worm. See Arab Proverbs, i. 133.

154:2 More unlucky than al-Basús: (Freytag, Arab Proverbs, i, 683). Al-Bases was the daughter of Munqaḍ the Temímite and aunt of Jessas ibn Múrrah. She had a neighbour named Sa‘d, and his she-camel named Seráb (See Arab Proverbs, i, 704) having trespassed on the guarded domain of Kulayb Wail, the powerful chief of the stock Rabiah, Kulayb shot it. Jessas, incited by al-Bases, who was enraged at this outrage upon her neighbour, slew Kulayb and the feud began between the tribe of Taghlib, of which Kulayb's brother Muhalhil was now chief, and the tribe of Bakr. This war, which lasted forty years, ended in the utter defeat of the tribe of Taghlib. Ḥarírí, i, 307 and Aghání, iv, 139-151.

154:3 That does not feather thee till it plucks (Literally, pares) me: Cf. the proverbial expression such a one neither profits nor injures.

154:4 will not say 'Abqarí but Baqarí': This is one of the several indigestible morsels to be found in this maqáma. As regards the first word the legend is that (Abqar) was a resident of the Jinn. So that whoever does a thing superlatively well is said to be a sprite of Abqarí. (See De Sacy, Ḥarírí, i, 257), 'whose sprite is not to be vied with'. Hence it came to mean some one pre-eminent; e.g. the Prophet related in a dream mentioning ‘Umar, 'and I have not seen a chief of a people do his wonderful deed.' Literally, strike his stroke. It is applied as an epithet denoting superlativeness of any quality. As used by Zuheir:

With horses upon which were demons
Deserving to get what they sought and to conquer the foe.'

(Shu‘ará Nasrániah, p. 570, edited by Sheikho, Beyrut).

Al-Sam‘ání shows ‘Abkar to have been a real person who was remarkable for his great strength (Ansab, p. 382, line 24). Cf. Herculean. It is, therefore, clear, when the Arabs wish to exaggerate the description of a thing, they call it ‘Abqarí.

or Baqari is applied to those who dwell with a man and p. 155 whose maintenance is incumbent upon him, and, therefore, dependents; or Relating to the ox, ox disease or bulimy.

If 'I will not say', etc., be taken as qualifying 'abandonment' the interpretation will be as in the translation, but if regarded as qualifying 'generosity' the rendering would be: 'I will not call it (generosity), something superlatively good but a deadly evil.'

155:1 Merchandise brings water out of the stones: Apparently a proverbial saying. Cf. maqáma, xxii.

155:2 Who cares not on which side he falls: Said of one who deliberately does something which will ruin him.

155:3 One meal a day: From he ate once a day.

155:4 Chess: Arabicized from Old Persian Chatranj, Sanskrit Chaturanga, literally, the four angles, or members of an army (elephants, horses, chariots, foot-soldiers). See Letters, p. 393, where there is a composition almost identical with this maqáma. The conventional concluding lines are wanting. Cf. Ḥarírí, ii, 654.

Next: XLII. The Maqáma of Ṣaimara