Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/Another pitiful Tale of Love


AND here is a similar love story. It is said that 'Abd-AUdh-ibn-Muamr, el-Ktsy, used to tell the following tale : —

I one year made the pilgrimage to the Sacred House of God ; and when my pilgrimage was ended, I determined to visit the tomb of the Prophet* And one night while I was sitting between the tomb and the Rdwdat,t lo, I heard some one sighing

  • Muhammadans hold the pilgrimage to Mekkah to be so

necessary to salvation, that, according to a tradition of their Prophet, he who dies without performing it may as well die a Jew or a Christian. To the Ka'abah, therefore, every Muslim who has health and means sufficient, ought once at least in his life to go on pilgrimage. A visit to the tomb of the Prophet at el-Medinah is constantly the sequel to the pilgrimage to Mekkah, from which place el-Medinah lies 200 miles to the north-west. It is considered a pious custom, and beneficial to him who observes it, but not indispensable to salvation.

t The following is the account of the Rdwdat given in Burton's "Pilgrimage to El Medinah and Mecca": — "Arrived at the western small door in the dwarf wall, we entered the celebrated spot called £1 Rauzah, or the Garden, after a saying


aloud, and groaning heavily. So I listened silently, and, behold, he was reciting these lines :

Does it gfrieve thee, the plaining of doves in the lote,* And awaken bitter gfrief in thy breast ?

of the Prophet's — 'Between my tomb and my pulpit is a garden of the gardens of Paradise.' " — Vol. ii., p. 64.

" The * Garden * is the most elaborate part of the mosque. Little can be said in its praise by day, when it bears the same relation to a second-rate church in Rome as an English chapel- of-ease to Westminster Abbey. It is a space of about eighty feet in length, tawdrily decorated so as to resemble a garden. The carpets are flowered, and the pediments of the columns are cased with bright green tiles, and adorned to the height of a man with gaudy and unnatural vegetation in arabesque. It is disfigured by handsome branched candelabras of cut crystal, the work, I believe, of a London house, and presented to the shrine by the late Abbas Pacha of Egypt. The only admirable feature of the view is the light cast by the windows of stained glass in the southern walL Its peculiar background, the railing of the tomb, a splendid filigreework of green and polished brass, gilt, or made to resemble gold, looks more picturesque near than at a distance, when it suggests the idea of a gigantic birdcage. But at night the eye, dazzled by oil-lamps suspended from the roof, by huge wax candles, and by smaller illuminations falling upon crowds of visitors in handsome attire, with the rich and the noblest of the city sitting in congregation when service is per- formed, becomes less critical. Still the scene must be viewed with a Moslem's spirit, and until a man is thoroughly imbued with the East, the last place the Rauzah will remind him of is that which the architect primarily intended it to resemble — a garden." — Vol. ii., p. 68.

  • The Sidr, or Lotus Tree. Rhamnus Lotus^ Linnaeus and

Reichart. Zizyphus Lotus, Lamarck, Willdenow, Des fon-


Has sleep fled thee through musing on the fair ? — She has bestowed upon thee instead crazing meditation.

Night ! thou hast been long to the sick one ; He suffers through desire and loss of patience. Thou hast delivered the lover to burning flames : He is consumed as living coals consume.

The moon bears witness (hat I love —

That love for one fair as herself has subdued me,

1 thought not of suffering on her account, Nor recked I of it ere it smote me.

'Abd-AllAh continues : Then the voice broke, and I knew not whence it had come to me. So I re- mained motionless, when, lo ! verily the weeping and

taines. Zizyphus Sylvestris, Shaw. Rhamnus Napeca^ Forskal. This tree bears a small round' fruit of much the same size, shape, and colour as a Siberian crab-apple. It is highly astrin- gent, but is considered a delicious fruit by the Bedawtn, to whom its acidity is doubtless a pleasant change from their ordi- narily dry food. A degoction of its leaves is used for washing dead bodies. This is one of the traditions called ^^ hUkmat taabbudy" i.e.y a precept of worship to be obeyed, but for which no reason has been assigned ; in contradistinction to the " hiik- mat mdanahu zdhir^* i.e., an order for which the reason is apparent. Of the latter class is the order that corpses should be washed in salt water, the reason being that they might thereby be longer preserved from turning to dust. Probably ' the astringent properties of the lotus were known to the Prophet, who was skilled in chemistry, and he ordered the decoction from these leaves to be used in places inland, where salt water was not procurable.

136 'ILAM-EN'NAs,

groaning again began, and the man recited these lines, saying :

The fleeting vision of Riy4 has grieved thee,

And the night is dark as the blackest tresses.

The foundation of love was laid by thine eye ;

But the brilliant vision has fled from thy gaze.

I called to the Night — and the darkness was

Like an ocean with rolling billows beating ;

Whilst the moon traversed the heavens

As a journeying Monarch with the stars his. armies.^—

" O Night \ thou hast been weary to the lover,

Only with the Dawn is* his aid and succour.'*

But Night answered me, " Die thy natural death ! and know

That love is the self-contempt of the lover."

And at the beginning of his verses I rose in order to find the voice, and he had not ended them before I was with him. And I found him a youth with the down yet on his fade, and with tears flowing in tor- rents over his cheeks. So I said to him, " Good morrow, young man." He replied, " And to thee — who art thou } " I answered, " ' Abd-Allah-ibn- M ' imr, el-Ktsy."

He asked, " Seekest thou aught } "

I replied, " I was sitting in the Rdwdat, and nothing troubled me this night excepting thy voice. Now my life is at thy service ; what is it thou equirest.?"


" Sit down," said he. And when I had done so, he continued : " I am 'Utbah-ibn-Khabib-ibn-el- Mundztr-ibn-eI-Jam6h, el-Ansiry * At dawn I re- paired to the el-Ahz4b mosque, and remained awhile kneeling and prostrating. Then I withdrew to a distance, and, behold! I came upon women progressing like moons, and having in their midst a girl of mar- vellous beauty and perfect grace, who advanced towards me, and said, ^ O *U,tbah ! what sayst thou to an union with one who seeks union with thee?' Then she left me and departed, and I could hear no news nor find any trace of her. And verily, I, beside myself, am speeding from place to place, seeking her."

Then he cried aloud, and swooned lifeless on the ground ; and though he presently recovered con- sciousness, his face was as if it had been dyed with saffron. Then he recited, uttering these verses :

  • When the Prophet fled from Mekkah to el-Medinah, then

called Yathreb, and whose inhabitants consisted chiefly of the tribe of El-Aus and the Jewish tribe of Khdzraj, he was received and sheltered by some of the chief men of the city ; in remem- brance whereof they and their descendants adopted the name of el-Ans4ry (/>., helpers, supporters), and greatly glorified them- selves on account of this appellation.

138 'ILAM-EN'NAs,

My heart beholds thee in thy distant land ; Does thy heart likewise see me from afar ? My soul and my eye yearn after thee ; With thee is my spirit, thy memory with me. Even were I in the eternity of Paradise or Heaven, Pleasureless would be life till again I beheld thee.

The narrator continues : Then I cried to him, " O son of my brother ! repent of thy sin, and return unto thy Lord, for verily the terrors of the Judgment Day await thee."*

But he exclaimed, " Get thee hence ! I shall not

know fear until the Kdrazhan returns."t

, Nevertheless, I did not cease importuning him until the morning star rose, when I said, " Let us to the Ahzdb mosque." J

  • He feared for the young man on account of the blasphemy

contained in the two last lines of his verses.

t A man of the tribe of the el-An^zah went to gather the fruit, called Kdraz, of an acacia, and never returned ; whence the proverb, " Till the return of the Kdrazhan."

X The Ahzib mosque lies without the city of el-Medinah. There it is said the Prophet prayed for three days during the Battle of the Ditch (a.h. 5), the last fought with the infidel Kuraish under Abu-Sufyan. After this three days* prayer, say some of the Arab writers, God sent a piercing cold east wind, which benumbed the limbs of the infidels, blew dust in their eyes, overturned their tents, put their horses in disorder, and gave the victory to the Muslims. The Prophet's prayer, there- fore, having been granted, Muslims believe that no petition raised at the Ahzib mosque is neglected by All^.


So we went thither, and sat down until we had performed our midday devotions — ^when, behold ! of a truth the women approached, but the girl was not with them. And they cried, " O 'Utbah ! what thinkest thou hast become of her who sought union with thee, and revealed to thee the love that was in thee?"

" What has happened to her ? " he asked.

" Her father," they replied, "has taken her and packed her off to es-SamHwah." *

Tfien I questioned them concerning the girl, and they told me, " She is Riyd, the daughter of el- Ghatrif, es-Sdlamy." And the young man raised his head, and composed, saying :

My friend ! verily Riyi has sped away with the dawn. And her camel has borne her to the land of es-Samiwah. My friend ! verily I swooned through weeping, But were another possessed of t^ars I would borrow from him.

Then I addressed him : " O *Utbah ! I brought here with me much wealth lest worthy persons should stand in need of it ; and verily I make a free gift of it to thee, until thou shalt have attained thy desire,

  • es-Samiwah lies between Siik-esh-Shiyukh and Hillah, on

the right bank of the Euphrates.

140 'ILAM'EN-NAs.

and more than thy desire. Let us come to the mosque of the el-Ansdry."*

So we went on until we were close to the people belonging to it, whom I saluted ; and when they had answered courteously, I said, " O ye people ! what have ye to say concerning 'Utbah and his father ? "

They replied, " They are among the chief of the Arabs/'

I said, "He has been wondrously smitten of love, and I seek help from you to reach es-Samdwah/'

They replied, " We hear and obey."

So we mounted, and the people rode with us until we looked down upon the abode of the Benu-Salim.f And the chief was made aware of our presence, and he came out in haste, and met us, and cried, "Long life to ye ! ye great ones ! " We replied, " And to thee long life ! Verily we have come as thy guests."

  • This is also called the Masjid en Ndbi, or Prophet's

Mosque. It is erected around the spot where the Prophet's caimel, on his flight from Mekkah, knelt down by the order of Heaven, It was built by the Ansiry and Muhajerin (see Note *, p. 1 54), who were assisted in their labours by the Prophet him- self.

t The Benu-Salim was a branch of the important tribe of eUKhdzraj, which was spread over the country surrounding el- i Medtnah*


He said, "You have arrived at a most liberal dwelling^. Ho, slaves ! come hither." And the slaves came forward, and spread out the Intd'a,* and placed the cushions, and slaughtered of the flocks and the herds.

But we said, "We will not taste thy food until thou hast granted us what we desire." .

"And what is your request ? " he asked.

"We seek," we replied, "thy honoured daughter in marriage for 'Utbah-ibn-Khabib-ibn^el-Miindztr, the noble, the illustrious, the well-descended." Where- upon he remarked, " O my brother ! verily this is her business whom thou demandest, and I shall go and acquaint her of it." And he rose up wrathfully, and went out to Riyi."

And she asked, " What is this anger, O my father ! which I perceive on thy brow } "

He answered, " Some of the el-Ansclry people have arrived here seeking thee in marriage from me."

" They are illustrious chiefs," said she ; " may the

  • Intd^Uy or Nitd^a^ a piece of leather which is spread on

the ground, and upon which the dishes are placed at a feast. It is also used when corporal punishment is to be inflicted upon criminals, and when they are brought out for public execution. *

142 'JLAM'EN'NAs.

Prophet intercede for them ! But which amongst them seeks me to wife ? "

"The young man who is known as 'Utbah-ibn- Khabdb," he replied.

" I have heard," said she, " of this 'Utbah, that he is one who performs what he promises, and follows what he seeks."

Then cried her father, " I have sworn that 1 will never marry thee to him, for of a truth a certain tale concerning thee and him has reached me."

" It was not true," she said.

" Nevertheless," he responded, " I have sworn that I will not wed thee with him."

" Yet be courteous to them," she said. " For indeed the el-Ans^ry do not associate with people of low degree. An excuse is better than flat refusal."

" What kind of excuse } " he asked.

" Be exacting with them in the matter of dowry," she replied, "and they will withdraw."

" What thou hast spoken is good," said he. Then he went out quickly, and said to the people, " The . daughter of the tribe has made answer. But never- theless I must demand that her dowry be equal to her rank. Say, who is guarantee for the same }



So I, Abk- Allah, said, " I am.

Then the old man continued, " I require for her a thousand bracelets of red gold, and five thousand dirhems of the best stamped silver money, and a hundred garments of striped and damasked stuffs, and five skins of ambergris."

I said, " You shall have it. But what was her answer.?"

He replied, " Yes, assuredly." On hearing which, I sent off men of the el-Ansslry to el-Medtnah-el- Mundwwarah,* and they brought the whole of what had been promised. Then they killed of the flocks and

  • Medinah means in the abstract, city or town. But when the

inhabitants of Yathreb received Muhammad, and acknowledged his mission, they changed this name to el-Medinah — the city par excellence. It has, however, many affixes — such as, Medinah- en-Ndby, the City of the Prophet; el-Medinah-el-Mundw- warah, the Enlightened or Illuminated City. This latter title is said by Muslims to have been given for the following reason : above the chamber in which are the tombs of the Prophet and his successors, Abu-Bekr and /Omar, is a green dome, surmounted by a gilt crescent springing from a series of globes. They believe (according to Mr. Burton) that a pillar of heavenly light crowns this crescent, and can be seen by the pilgrims at three days' distance. My sheikh, however, who at my request made inquiries upon this subject amongst those most lately arrived from el-Medinah, brought back word that the light resembles the morning star, and can be seen from afar, but not at the distance of three days' journey.

144 'ILAM'EN'NAs.


the herds, and people assembled to partake of the feast, which lasted for forty days. Then the father said, " Take your damsel." So we mounted her in a litter, and loaded thirty camels with her goods, and set off and departed And we travelled until there remained between us and el-Medinah-el-Mundwwarah but one day's journey, when lo ! horsemen in search of plunder came out against us, and I believe that they were of the Benu-Salim. And 'Utbah-ibn-Khabdb charged them, and slew many of the men, and turned to withdraw. But he had received a spear-thrust^ and fell to the ground. And help came to us from the inhabitants of that part of the country, who drove the horsemen away. But verily the days of 'Utbah were accomplished, and we cried, " Alas, O 'Utbah !" Then we heard the girl exclaim, "Alas, O 'Utbah!" and she flung herself from the top of her camel, and threw herself upon his body, and began wailing aloud, and reciting passionately these lines :

I feigned patience, but in impatience. And that my soul Has no right to live after thee is its one consolation. Had it rightly acted, truly 'twould have died With those who have preceded, before thy death. After us will none be found who thus share friendship. Nor among souls, a responsive soul.


Then she sobbed one sob, and her spirit passed away. And we dug a single grave for them both, and covered them with earth, and I returned to the land of my people, where I remained seven years. Then I made up my mind to go again to the el-Hijclz, and as I had determined to visit el-Medtnah-el-Mundw- warah, I said, " Verily I will go again and look at 'Utbah's grave." So I went to the tomb, and lo ! I found a tree with streamers, red and yellow and green, upon it. And I asked the people living thereabouts, " What is the history of this tree } "

And they answered, " It is the tree of the betrothed lovers."

And I stayed a day and a night at the tomb, and then departed ; and that was the last I saw of it.