Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/The Dispute concerning the Superiority of the Kuraish and the Yemenites


IT is related that MuAwiyah was one day seated amid his companions, when lo ! two caravans from the desert approached. And he said to some of those who were with him, "Observe these people, and bring me word concerning them." So they went, and returned and said, " O Commander of the Faithful ! one caravan comes from el-Y^men, and the other from Kuraish." Then he said, " Go again to them, and bid the Kuraish that they come to us. But as for those of el-Yemen, let them remain in their place unless we desire their admittance."

And when the Kuraish entered, Mudwiyah saluted them, and went near and asked them, " Do ye know, O people of Kuraish ! why I left the people of el-Yemen behind, and caused you to draw near?"

They made answer, " No, by Allih ! O Commander of the Faithful!"

He said, "Because they never cease from vain- glorious boasting over us, in matters wherein they are incompetent. And to-morrow when they come in, and take their places in the assembly, I desire to rise amongst them as a devotee, and propose to them questions whereby I shall lessen their self-esteem, and lower their dignity. Therefore when they come in and take their seats in the assembly, and ask questions about anything, let no one but me answer them."

Now the chief of the party from el-Y6men was a man called et-Tarammdh-ibn-el-HAkam, el Bihily. And he went to his friends and said to them, " Do ye know, O people of el-Y6men ! why the son of Hind[1] has left you outside, and has ordered the Kuraish into his presence?"

And when they replied that they did not, he continued: "In order that to-morrow morning he may rise amongst you as a devotee, and propose to you certain questions whereby he may lessen your self-esteem and lower your dignity. Therefore when you enter his presence, and take your places in the assembly, if he ask you concerning anything, let no one reply to him excepting me."

And when the morrow caime, and they had been admitted into Miiiwiyah's presence, and had taken their places, he rose from his seat, and standing erect, cried, "O ye people! who spoke Arabic before the Arabs ; and to whom was the Arabic language revealed } "

Then et-Taramm&h rose, and answered, " To us, O Muiwiyah!" not adding, "O Commander of the Faithful!"

" How is that ?" asked Mudwiyah.

" Because," replied et-Taramm4h, " when the Arabs came down to Bcibel, and all mankind spake the Hebrew language, the Most High inspired the tongue of Yaarab-ibn-Kahtdn, el Bdhily, with Arabic. And he was our ancqstor, and spoke Arabic ; and his de- scendants after him handed it down from one to another until this our day. And we, O Mudwiyah !


are Arabs by lineage, whilst you are Arabs by educa- tion only."*

  • The Arabians are distinguished by their own writers into

two classes, viz., the old lost Arabians, and the present inhabit- ants of Arabia. The former were very numerous, and divided into several tribes which are now all destroyed, or else lost and swallowed up among the other tribes ; nor are any certain memoirs or records extant concerning them, though the memory of some very remarkable events, and the catastrophe of some tribes, have been preserved by tradition, and since confirmed by the authority of the Kurin. The present Arabians, according to their own historians, are sprung from two stocks, Kahtin the same with Joctan the son of Eber (see Genesis x. 25), and 'Adnin, descended in a direct line from Ismael the son of Abraham and Hagar. The posterity of the former they call el-Ardb el-Aribahy i. e., the genuine or pure Arabs ; and that of the latter el-^Ardb-el-Musfdrabahy i, e,, naturalized Arabs. (Some writers, though this is contrary to the general opinion of Oriental historians, make Kahtdn also a descendant of Ismael, and call his posterity Mufardb, which signifies insititious or grafted Arabs, though in a nearer degree than Musfardb.) The posterity of Ismael have no claim to be admitted as pure Arabs, their ancestor being by origin and language a Hebrew, but making an alliance with the Jorhamites by marriage. The descents between Ismael and 'Adnin being uncertain, the Arabs seldom trace their genealogies higher than 'Adnin, whom they acknowledge as father of their tribes, the descents from him downwards being pretty certain and uncontroverted. Between Adnin and Fehr, who went among the Arabs by the surname of Kuraish, and fi'om whom the whole tribe of Kuraish deduced their name, were ten generations. The Arabs suppose Fehr to have been denominated Kuraish from his undaunted bravery and resolution : he may be considered as the root of the politest

^^ 'jiAM'En^nAs.

Ah4 VUi*» silenced MuAwiyah for a time; but in a \\V\W wUilP hp raised his head, and cried, "O ye u^^\kW I wUi^h tribe among the Arabs first professed f;l-ls,l4m i find by whom is witness thereof borne ?"

jtV i 4r4uuu^h answered, **We, O MiAwiyah! "

  • ♦ Umw iiv* ?" asked the latter,

'♦ HviRV^^v^/" replied et-Tarammdh, "God sent Mu- inuuu^d, HUd you accused him of falsehood, and pro- ^^^iiv^vid him a fool, and deemed him mad. But we ^>:^^ivpvl hia\ and succoured him. And God has re-

mnl \\W>\ v:vilubviU(J(l tribe of the Arabs. Kozaiy, his descendant \\\ \\\^ ^\\\\\ guutJvation, wrested the guardianship of the Ka'abah {i\\\r Mt \\\^ U4UiU of the Benu-Khuz^'ah, and with the custody of \\^\\\, UuiUliug HSiiumed the title of King. Kozaiy*s grandson, li^blu^u, V4isi<?d the glory of his people to the highest pitch, and tUb u\wuuivy iii held in such veneration by the Muslims, that liMiu \m\ thu kindred of the Prophet amongst them are called ||i'\t»hiu\ilu»i, and he who presides over Mekkah and el-Medinah, V\|U4 uuul ulvvaya be of the race of Muhammad, has the title of pI huAu\ vjI Htlahim, /.^., The prince or chief of the Hishimites, K^W-W \K\ ihia day. Muhammad was the great-grandson of Kaahiiu, Hud when he became famous, the Kuraish, who were i(i tirbt hia \nost violent opponents, added pride in his renown to thuir fdimer arrogance of birth and culture. The Arabians were fur ^jDJuc centuries under the government of the descendants of Kuljtai^ (llic progenitor] of the *Ardb-el-'Aribah). Yairab (see luxu, Due uf his sons, founding the kingdom of el-Ydmen, and JmhiUn, another son (with a descendant of whom Ismael inter- niiuiiuil), founding the kingdom of el-Hijdz.


vealed — ^those who received and succoured, they, they are the true believers * And the Prophet was merciful

to us in consequence, and overlooked our evil deeds. And why did you not the same, but did, on the contrary, oppose the Apostle of God ? "

And Muclwiyah reflected upon this question ; but after a time, raising his head, he asked, " O ye men ! who among the Arabs has the most eloquent tongue, and who has borne witness thereof ? *'

Et-Taramm&h answered, " We, O Mudwiyah ! "

" How is that?" asked the latter.

" Because," replied et-Tarammdh, " Imru*l-Kis, son

of Hdjar-el-Kandy, was of us. He says in one of his

poems :

In years of scarcity They feed mankind at times From platters large as cisterns And cauldrons immovably fixed.

And verily he quoted from the Kuran before it was

  • Kurin, Sur. 8, v. 75, alluding to the persecution undergone

by the Prophet and his followers in the early days of Muham- madism at the hands of the Kuraish, and his reception by the inhabitants of Yathreb, afterwards called el-Medinah. (See Note *, p. 13.)

Sz 'ilAM'EN'NAs,

revealed. And the Prophet of God himself witnesses the same concerning him."

And for the third time Muiwiyah was silenced. But once more he asked, " O ye men ! who is greatest in courage and renown among the Arabs, and who bears witness thereof?"

Et-Tarammih made answer, " We, O Miiiwiyah ! "

" And how so V he asked.

" Because *Amr-ibn-Ma'ady-Kdrib, ez-Zabldy,* was of us," replied et-Tarammdh. *' He was a warrior in the times of paganism, and a warrior in the times of el-Islim, of which the Prophet is his witness."

"And where wert thou.?" asked Miidwiyah, "for verily he was brought bound in iron."

"Who brought him.?" asked et-TarammAh.

And when Mualwiyah replied, " 'Aly," he continued : " By Aimh ! hadst thou known his power, of a truth thou wouldst have submitted the Khaltfate to him, and not have sought it for thyself." Whereupon Muawiyah exclaimed, "Dost thou argue with me, thou old woman of el-Y^men .?"

" Yes," replied he, " I do argue with thee, thou old woman of Miidhar! Because the old woman of el-

• See Prefatory Note, p. 40.


Y6men was Balkis,* who believed in God, and married His Prophet Sulaimdn, the son of David — Peace be upon them both ! But the old woman of Miidhar was thy ancestress, of whom God said concerning her — ' and his wife is a HamdlaUel-Hdtab ; round her neck is a fibre rope/f

The historian adds : " And Mudwiyah pondered over this, and then, raising his head, said, ' May Allih recompense thee with friends, and increase thy wisdom, and have mercy upon thy forefathers ! * And he be- stowed gifts upon him, and treated him kindly."

  • Said to be the same as the Queen of Sheba, of our Scrip-

ture. See sequel to this tale.

t Hamdlat'el'Hdtab — Bearer of wood. A surname given by Muhammad to Umm- Jamil, the sister of Abu-Sufy4n, and wife of Abu-Ldhab, the Prophet's uncle and bitter enemy. The i nth chapter of the Kurin is as follows :

Intitled Abu-Lahab — Revealed at el-Mekkah. In the name of the most merciful God.

The hands of Abu-Ldhab shall perish, and he shall perish. His riches shall not profit him, neither that which he hath gained. He shall go down to be burned into flaming fire : and his wife also, bearing wood,* having on her neck a cord of twisted fibres of a palm-tree.

  • For fuel in hell ; because she fomented the hatred which her hus-

band bore to Muhammad ; or, bearing a bundle of thorns and bram- bles, because she carried such and strewed them by night in the Prophet's way. — Salis Kurdn

  1. Hind, the mother of Muiwiyah, was an Amazon notorious for the cruel and revolting indignities which she practised upon the corpse of Hdmzah, the Prophet's uncle, at the battle of Ohod, where she headed a band of women, who like herself took part in the combat.