Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/'Abd-Allah-ibn-Marwan's Adventure with the King of Nubia


1 T' L-MANSUR was talking one day in his Assem- -*-^ bly of the decline of the empire of the Benu- 'Omeyyah, and of what had befallen them, and of how they had lived in happiness, but died in misery. And Ismail-ibn-'Aly, el-H&shimy, said to him, "Verily 'Abd-AMh-ibn-Marw&n-ibn*Muhammad,[1] is in thy prison, and knows a story concerning the King of Nubia. Send for him and ask him about it."

So they brought him, and he cried, "Peace be upon thee, O Commander of the Faithful ! and the mercy of God and His blessing."

El-Mans{ir replied, "To return a salutation implies security, and that is not my intention. Nevertheless, be seated."

So 'Abd-Alldh sat down, and el-Mans{ir inquired, " What is thy story about the King of Nubia ?"

" O Commander of the Faithful," he answered. "I was the heir-apparent to my father, and when thou didst pursue us I sent for ten of my slaves, and placed in the hands of each one of them a thousand dinars, and equipped five mules, and fastened a jewel of great price within my girdle, and fled to the land of Nubia. And when we drew near, I sent one of my slaves, saying to him, *Go to this King and salute him, and crave protection for us, and buy us some provisions/ So he went off, but was absent so long that I began to grow suspicious of him. Presently, however, he returned, and a man with him, who came in and saluted, and said, ' The King sends thee greeting, and asks. Who art thou, and what has brought thee to my kingdom? Art thou come to make war, or dost thou desire to join my religion, or suest thou for my protection?* — So I answered him, 'Return to thy King cmd say unto him, I am not come to make war, and I do not desire thy religion, for I am not of those who seek to change their religion, — but I come imploring protection/ So the messenger went away, and afterwards returned and said to me, 'The King says, I am coming to thee to- morrow; and let no new anxieties come into thy mind, nor any care about provisions/

    • Then said I to my companions, 'Spread out the

carpets.' So they spread them out, and I prepared to receive him the next day. And behold ! he drew near, and verily he wore two striped robes ; one of which was wrapped around him like an Iz^r,[2] and the js and pursued ua And I fled to thee rtection, first from AlUh, then from thee.' But why do you drink wine which is for- iV I replied, 'That is the deed of slaves ners who have entered our religion and m without our wish.' He continued, ' But ' put saddles of gold and of silver upon -teeds and war-horses when that is for- 'That Is the act,' I made answer, 'of m- igners who have come into our religion sr -iom without our desire.' 'But why,' C-'^hen you go out hunting and pass «BK.jk.()o you, with blows and ill-usage, ble tasks which are impossible I this were not enough, you B|e down their crops in the ' which the value is half 1 you to impose heavy istisement?' I said again, ^5 and attendants and No ; for you still has declared to be to do what God

278 'ILAM'EN'NAs.

other hung about him like a mantle. His feet were bare ; and with him were ten men with javelins, three of whom went before him and seven followed. So I despised his condition, and questioned within myself as to his murder. But whilst he approached, behold ! there appeared a vast multitude, and I exclaimed, 'What means this?' They said, *It is horsemen.' And therewithal came ten thousand bridles. And the horsemen arrived at the moment of the King's entrance, and ranged themselves round about us. And when the King had entered he sat down upon the ground ; so I inquired of his inter- preter, *Why does he not sit upon the place which I have prepared for him V And he asked the King, who replied, * Tell him, verily I am a king ; and he whom AUdh has raised to be king over his slaves should humble himself before All^h and His might'

" Then he scored the ground with his fingers for a while, but presently lifted up his head, and said,

  • Ask him : How comes it that you have been- deprived

of this kingdom which has been snatched away from you, and you the men most nearly related to your Prophet?' I answered, *He who is more nearly related to him than we, came and pillaged us, and


overcame us and pursued us. And I fled to thee seeking protection, first from AUdh, then from thee.' He said, * But why do you drink wine which is for- bidden you ?' I replied, 'That is the deed of slaves and foreigners who have entered our religion and our kingdom without our wish/ He continued, * But why do you put saddles of gold and of silver upon your riding-steeds and war-horses when that is for- bidden you ? ' * That is the act,' I made answer, * of slaves and foreigners who have come into our religion and our kingdom without our desire.* 'But why,' he went on, 'when you go out hunting and pass through villages, do you, with blows and ill-usage, impose upon their people tasks which are impossible to them ; and as though this were not enough, you must needs also trample down their crops in the pursuit of one partridge of which the value is half a dirhem, when it is forbidden you to impose heavy burdens and to inflict chastisement.^' I said again,

  • That is the doing of slaves and attendants and

their followers.' He answered, * No ; for you still wish to make lawful what God has declared to be unlawful, and you bring yourselves to do what God has forbidden you. And it is He who has vit^'s*^^'^

28o 'ilAm-en-nAs,

from you your wealth, and clothed you in misery, and has aided your enemies against you. And His ven- geance has fallen upon you, and is not yet accom- plished. And I fear lest punishment descend upon thee if thou wert one of the oppressors, and that with thee it also embrace me, for of a truth when ven- geance comes it comprehends all. Depart therefore after three days ; for of a truth if I find thee after that time, I will seize what thou hast with thee, and will slay thee and thine.' Then he rose and left me. And I remained for three days, and then returned to Egypt, where thy vicegerent laid hands on me and sent me to thee. And here I am, and death were dearer unto me than life."

Then el-Mans{ir was softened towards him, and thought to release him. But Ismail said to him,

  • ' Upon my neck be the consequences of this."

" What dost thou advise V asked el-Mans{ir.

He replied, " That he should be sent down to one of our fortified houses, and that what is executed upon those who resemble him, should be executed upon him."

And this was done to him.


  1. See Translator's Note, p. 235. I find various accounts of the fate of 'Abd-Allih-ibn-Muhammad. Abu-Ja'afer, et-Tdbary, and el-Makin assert that Muhammad left behind him two sons, 'Abd- Allih and 'Abd-el-'Aziz ; the former of whom was, after his father's death, taken and imprisoned, and so remained until the Khalifate of Har(in, er-Rashid, when he was released from his confinement, though he was still loaded with irons ; and that he died childless, and was buried at BaghdHd. D'Herbelot, on the other hand, states as follows ; " II (Marw4n-ibn-Muhammad) regna cinq ans ou environ, et les Abbasides firent mourir apr^s sa mort tous ceux de sa Maison qu'ils putent avoir entre les mains. II y en eut un cependant, lequel s'^tant sauve en Egypte, de Ik en Afrique, et passant en Espagne, y fonda une seconde Dynastie des Ommiades, qui prirent aussi en ce pays-Ik le titre des Khalifes." D'Herbelot says elsewhere that this founder of the dynasty in Spain was 'Abd-Allih. But in another place again throws doubt upon this statement by saying, " II est vray cependant que Marvan le dernier de ces Khalifes laissa deux enfans nommez A'bdallah, et, Obe'idallah, (not 'Abd-el-Aziz) qui s'enfuirent en Ethiopie. Ben Schuhnah dcrit qu' O'beidallah fut tue sur le chemin, et qu' A'bdallah qui y arriva, vequit jusqu'au temps du Khalife Mahadi TAbbaside, et y mourut sans enfans.

    Such conflicting statements as these are among the difficuhie which beset the student of Arabian History.

  2. The Iz4r is a cotton cloth six feet long by three and a half broad. It is wrapped round the loins from waist to knee, and knotted or tucked in at the middle.