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

p. 178


‘ÍSÁ IBN HISHÁM related to us and said: In my early youth I happened to have an equable temperament and accurate judgement, and so I held the balances of my reason even and counterbalanced my seriousness with my jesting. And I adopted some friends for love and others for pleasure. I set apart the day for the people and the night for the wine-cup. He said: 'Now one night there assembled with me some familiar friends, masters of pleasant ideas, and we ceased not to hand one another the stars of the drinking-bowls 1 until the wine we had was exhausted.'

He said: 'The boon-companions were unanimous in their decision to broach the wine vats, and we drew forth their contents 2 and they remained like the shell without the pearl, or a country without a free-born man.' He said: 'When we felt the effect of that our predicament, mischievous inclinations led us to the inn of the female vintner. The brocade of night was green and its waves were tumultuous. Now when we had begun to wade along, the crier of the morning 3 chanted the summons to prayer and so the fiend of youthful lust shrank back, 4 and we hastened

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forward to obey the call, and stood behind the Imam with the standing of the noble pious, with dignity, sedateness, and measured movements. For every commodity hath its time and every craft its place.

Now our Imam was energetic in his bending and rising, and by his delay was inviting us to slap him, till he came to his senses and raised his voice to pronounce the final salutation. Then he sat cross-legged at a side of the niche, turned his face towards his audience, 1 looking down for a long time and snuffed the air continually. Then he said: 'O people, he who has rendered his conduct unseemly, and is afflicted with his foul behaviour, should remain at home, 2 instead of polluting us with his breath, for verily all this day I have perceived the fumes 3 of the mother of enormities 4 from some of the people. Now what is the desert of him who has passed the night prostrated by the influence of Ṭaghút 5 a and then comes betimes to these houses 6 which God hath commanded to be raised, and hath purposed

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that the last of these should be cut off?' 1--and he pointed to us. Then was the congregation incited against us, and they fell upon us till our outer-wrapper garments were torn to tatters, the napes of our necks were covered with blood, and we vowed to them we would not revert to it. Then we escaped from among them with difficulty, but, owing to our escaping safely, 2 we all forgave such a calamity. 3 We enquired of the children that passed by us concerning the Imám of that village and they said: 'It is the godly man Abú’l Fatḥ, al-Iskanderí.' So we exclaimed: 'Good gracious, occasionally a blind man receives his sight and a demon believes! And praise God! he has hastened in turning to Him and may God not deprive us of repentance like his.' And we passed the remainder of our day marvelling at his devotion in spite of what we knew of his immorality. He said: 'Now when the day was, or almost was, in its death throes, we beheld and lo! there were the banners of the wine-shops 4 like stars in a pitch-dark night. At the sight of them we exchanged gifts of gladness, announced to one another the glad tidings of a brilliant night, and arrived at the one with the biggest door and the stoutest dogs. And we made the dinar our leader and recklessness a thing inseparable from us. We were conducted to the possessor of a beautiful form, dalliance, and a slender waist,--when her glances killed, her words made alive again. She received us well and hastened to kiss our heads and hands while her aliens 5 hurried to unsaddle the camels and the horses.' Then we asked her concerning her wine and she said:--

'Wine, in sweetness, 6 deliciousness and pleasantness, like the dew of my mouth,

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It leaves the clement one without the smallest quantity of the grace of his clemency.'

It is as if my grandfather's ancestors had pressed it from my cheek and coated it with pitch 1 like unto my separation and aversion; the trust of the ages, the hidden thing in the bosom of happiness. The righteous have not ceased to inherit it and the nights and the days to take away from it, until nought remaineth save aroma, rays, and a pungent flavour. It is the fragrance of the soul, the fellow-spouse of the sun, 2 the damsel of the lightning, a coaxing old dame. It is like the heat in the veins and the coolness of the gentle breeze in the throats, the illumination of thought and the antidote 3 to the poison of the age. With the like of it the dead is strengthened and raised to life again, and the one born blind is treated so that he sees. So we said: 'By thy father this is the stray! And who is the minstrel at thy court? Perhaps it is diluted for the drinkers with the sweet dew of thy mouth?' She said: 'Verily, I have an old man of pleasant disposition and rare humour. He met me on Sunday at the convent of Mirbad. He spoke to me confidentially till he pleased me, and so a friendship sprang up and joy recurred. He told me of his great honour, and of the nobility of his people in his own country that which directed my love to him, and made him a favourite, and you will soon make friends with, and have a longing for him.' He said: 'Then she called her old man, and lo! it was our Iskanderí, Abú’l-Fatḥ!' So I said: 'O Abú’l-Fatḥ! By heavens, it is as though he who recited these lines had looked upon thee and spoken with thy tongue:--

'In times gone by, 4 I had wisdom, religion and uprightness,
Then praise God! we sold jurisprudence for the craft of the cupper.
And, if we live but a little longer, God save us.'

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He said: 'Then he snorted as snorts the vain, he shouted, he grinned and laughed immoderately and then he said: "Is it said of the likes of me, is one like me proverbially spoken of?"'

'Cease from blaming, 1 but what a deceiver 2 thou perceivest me to be!
I am he whom every Tahamite and every Yemenite knows,
I am of every kind of dust, I am of every place.
At one time I cleave to the niche, at another to the location of the wine-shop.
And thus acts whoever is wise in this time.'

Said ‘Ísá ibn Hishám: 'I sought refuge with God from the like of his condition, and I marvelled at the holding back 3 of subsistence from men of his ilk. We enjoyed that week of ours with him and then we departed from him.'


178:1 The stars of the drinking-bowls: That is the cups of sparkling wine.

178:2 Their contents: Literally, their soul.

178:3 The crier of the morning: That is, the Mu’adhin (muezzin).

178:4 Shrank back: Cf. the epithet applied to the devil because he shrinks at the mention of God. See Qur’án, cxiv, 4 and Baiḍáwí, Commentary p. 179 (Fleischer ed.) ii, 424. A similar idea is suggested in Faust by Mephistopheles shrinking at the sight of the cross or the sound of sacred music.

179:1 His audience: Literally, his companions.

179:2 At home: Literally, at his house; Dozy's opinion is that the word is arabicized from the Greek. Cf.δομος a house. δημος, people, δεμοσοις a public place belonging to the public, a state prison. The name of Hajjáj's dungeon at Wasiṭ, half way between Baṣra and Kufa (Yaqut, ii, 712). The word is found in Rabinnical Hebrew ‏דימוס‎

179:3 The fumes: According to the law of Abú Ḥanífa a man does not render himself liable to scourging () because he smells of wine, unless witnesses give evidence, or he himself admits, that he has actually drunk wine. The mere smell, adds the same authority, is not sufficient, for the odour consequent upon eating a quince would be precisely the same. Mabsút, xxiv, 31.

179:4 The mother of enormities: Cf. the more popular term mother of vices, wine.

179:5 Ṭaghút: According to Baiḍáwí, Commentary, i, 213, it means any vain thing which is worshipped. It signifies an idol or whatever is worshipped besides God, and particularly the two goddesses of the Meccans, al-Lát and al-‘Uzzá, and also the devil and any seducer (Sale's translation of the Qur’án, p. 28 note). See Qur’án, iv, 54, and liii, 19.

179:6 To these houses: An allusion to Qur’án, xxiv, 36. The term houses quoted from the Qur’án is applied to those edifices set apart for divine worship, particularly the principal temples of Mecca, Madína and Jerusalem. Baiḍáwí, Commentary, ii, 25.

180:1 Should be cut off: An allusion to Qur’án, viii, 7.

180:2 Escaping safely: Another reading For the sake of the old wine.

180:3 We forgave such a calamity: That is, we were glad to get away at all.

180:4 The banners of the wine shots: Evidently in the time of the author the sale of intoxicants in Muslim lands was not prohibited and it was permitted to display flags to distinguish those institutions.

180:5 Aliens: Plural of the term was applied first to foreigners, especially Persians, then to Christians who had become Muslims and to Muslims who had become Christians and, finally, to renegade foreigners in the service of Muslim princes.

180:6 Wine in sweetness, like the dew of my mouth: Metre, kámil.

181:1 Coated it with pitch: An allusion to the practice of besmearing the winevat with pitch.

181:2 The fellow spouse of the sun: That is, something calculated to excite jealousy.

181:3 An antidote; Probably arabicized from the Greek θηριακα, φαρμακα, antidotes against poisonous bites.

181:4 In times gone by: Metre, ramal.

182:1 Cease from blaming: Metre, ramal.

182:2 A deceiver: Literally, a demolisher, from he crushed or demolished, also one who mixes one substance with another, a cheat.

182:3 Holding back: Literally, sitting down. Cf. Ḥarírí, p. 140.

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