Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/The Martyrdom of Sald-ibn-Jubair


THE following story is related by 'Awn-ibn-Abi- Shaddid, el-'Abdy, in the Haydt-el-Haiwin. When el-Hajjdj-ibn-YClsuf was reminded of Said-ibn- Jubair,* he sent a man of rank called el-Mutalammis- ibn-el-Ahwas, and twenty men with him, from Damascus, to seek Satd. And whilst they were doing

  • Abu-'Abd-AUih (some say Abu-MuHammad) Siid-ibn-Jubair-ibn-Hishim, surnamed el-Asady, was an enfranchised negro, and

a native of el-Kftfah. He was eminent for his religious knowledge and piety. In A.H. 79, according to Greek writers, and a.h. 82 according to Arabian historians, he joined 'Abd-er-Rahman-ibn- Ashdth in his revolt against the treachery and cruelty of el- Hajjij. Though successful for some time, 'Abd-er-Rahman was at length defeated and slain, and Siid upon that fled to Mekkah. Ibn-Khalikin states that he was there arrested by Khaiid-ibn-'Abd-AUah, el-Kdsary, (see Note f, p. 116,) then governor of Mekkah, and sent by him to el-Hajjij. The same author gives a different account of his last interview with the tyrant, and also states that after his death Ahmed-ibn-Hanbal said, " el-Hajjij killed Siid-ibn-Jubair, yet there was not a man on the face of the earth who did not stand in need of Siid and his learning.*'

178 'ILAM'EN-NAs.

this, behold ! they passed by a Christian monk* in his

  • It is difficult to assign the precise era at which Christianity

was introduced into Arabia. It is the universal belief of the Eastern Churches that St Thomas preached in Arabia Felix and Socotra on his way to India, about A.D. 50. It is also said that the Himyarites obtained their first knowledge of Christianity from St Bartholomew. 'Abd-Keldl, the ruler of el-Y^men from A.D. 273 to 279, is said to have embraced Christianity, though from fear of his subjects he never openly professed it, nor does Christianity appear to have made any considerable progress in Arabia until the next reign, that of the Tobba* Ibn-Hdsan, from A.D. 297 to A.D. 320. It is generally supposed to have been in his reign that Christianity was also established in Abyssinia, an event which in after-years seriously affected the fate of Arabia. The ruler of el-Y^men in a.d. ^^90 was Zhu-Nawwds, a zealous partisan of Judaism, who cruelly persecuted all the Christians within his dominions. The greater number of the inhabitants of the district called Nejrdn had embraced Christianity, and upon the pretext of the murder by them of two Jews, Zhu- Nawwds besieged the city with 120,000 men. Faihng to take it by force, he assured the inhabitants, upon oath, that no evil should happen to them if they opened their gates. They there- fore surrendered ; but no sooner had Zhu-Nawwds entered the to\vrn than he plundered it, and gave the inhabitants their choice between Judaism and death. They preferred the latter ; accord- ingly large pits were dug and filled with burning fuel, and all who refused to abjure their faith, amounting it is said to 20,000, were either cast into the flames or slain by the sword. One of the few who escaped this massacre traversed Arabia, Syria, and Asia Minor, and at last reaching Constantinople, implored the Emperor Justin I. to take up the cause of the persecuted Chris-

Tobba signified governor or ruler, and was a tide common to the ces of the Himyarite dynasty.


chapel, from whom they made inquiries. The monk said, " Describe him to me;" and when they had

tians in el-Ydmen. Unable to do so himself on account of the troubled state of his own dominions, he however wrote to the King of Abyssinia, begging him to send troops into el-Ydmen for the punishment of Zhu-Nawwds. The King of Abyssinia, who was a Christian, acquiesced, and sent an army under a general named Arydt to invade Arabia ; a battle ensued on the sea-coast, in which the Himyarites were entirely defeated. Arydt then penetrated into el- Yemen, and in a very short tim6 subdued the greater part of the country. Zhu-Nawwds at the first en- gagement fled from the field, but being closely pursued and hemmed in by his enemies, he leaped his horse into the sea and was drowned. Thus was el-Ydmen conquered by the Abys- sinians, and thus terminated the Himyarite dynasty, which had ruled there for two thousand years.

The reign of Abrahd», the second Abyssinian viceroy ot el- Yemen, was favourable to Christianity. A bishop, who is reckoned as Saint Gregentius in the Roman calendar, was sent there by the Patriarch of Alexandria. The unbelievers were challenged to public disputations with him in the royal hall in the city of Dzafdr, the viceroy and his nobles were present, and a learned Rabbi named Herbanus was chosen to advocate the cause of Judaism. The dispute lasted three days, and resulted in the conversion of Herbanus and many of his followers to Christianity. Abrahi, who was a zealous Christian, is said to have built a church at Sanda which was the wonder of the age. The Emperor of Rome and the King of Abyssinia supplied marble for its construction, and Nowairi states that when com- pleted, a pearl was placed on the altar of such brilliancy that on the darkest nights objects were clearly seen by its light. Abrahd, deeply grieved to see the multitudes who still performed idol- worship in the Kiabah at Mekkah, endeavoured to substitute

i8o 'ilAm-en-nAs,

done so, he showed them where Said was. And they found him prostrate upon the ground, praying

his church as the object of their superstitious reverence, and issued an order that all the Arabs in the neighbourhood should perform the pilgrimage to his church at Sania. He also sent missionaries to the Hijdz and Nejd, and wrote to the King of Abyssinia telling him that he intended forcing the Arabs to abandon the Kdabah and substitute this temple as the object of their pilgrimage. This design being speedily known throughout Arabia, excited the indignation of all the pagan tribes, especially the custodians of the Kiabah, and accordingly Abrahd's mes- sengers were badly received in the Hijdz, and one of them was murdered by a man of the tribe of Kininah. Another man of the same tribe was bribed by the guardians of the Kaabah to defile the church at Sania. He effected this during the prepa- ration for a high festival; but Abrahd having discovered the author of this indignity, vowed to take signal vengeance by the total destruction of Mekkah and its Kiabah. The war which followed is well known in Arabian history, and is called in the Kuran " The War of the Elephant." Abrahd was at first success- ful, but the Christian army was afterwards destroyed, by miracu- lous agency as Arabian authors maintain, though others, with more probability, suggest that it perished either from want of provisions, or from an epidemic disease, most probably small- pox. Abrahd himself, with a very small remnant of his army, reached Sanaa, where he soon after died, A.D. 570. He was succeeded by his son Yascoom, who reigned two years, and he was succeeded by his brother Masruk, under whose viceroyalty the Arabs grew impatient of the Christian yoke, and at length found a liberator in Saif, the last of the old Himyarite race. This Saif made his way to Constantinople, and implored the emperor to send an army to repel the Abyssinians. The em- peror being a Christian, refused to aid the Jews against those

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earnestly to his Lord in a loud voice. And when they drew near, and saluted him, he raised his head,

professing his own religion. Saif then repaired to the court of the Persian monarch, Kesra Anowshirwin, who gave him pro- mises of assistance, but owing to other wars delayed their fulfil- ment. In the meanwhile Saif died, but his son, Miady-Karib, animated by the same zeal as his father, once more sought Kesra's presence. The latter armed all the malefactors in the prisons, amounting to 3,600 men, organized them into an army, and placed them under the command of Horzdd-ibn-Narsee, sumamed Wahrdz, one of themselves, but superior to them by birth and education. This party, together with Maady-Karib, sailed for el-Y^men ; the courage of the native Arabs was excited by the sight of the troops, and the presence of a descendant of their ancient kings ; and those who had suffered from the perse- cution of Masruk, a cruel and tyrannical prince, flocked to the standard of Maady-Karib, who soon found himself at the head of an army of 20,000 men. Masruk prepared to oppose their advance with a force of 120,000 men, but during the battle which ensued was killed by an arrow shot by Wahriz, the Abyssinian army was thrown into the utmost confusion, and finally routed with great slaughter. Mdady-Karib was, by order of Kesra, in- stalled as viceroy of el-Ydmen, agreeing to pay tribute as a vassal of the Persian monarch. These events occurred about A.D. 575, and thus was the Christian power in el-Ydmen over- thrown, though many Abyssinians still remained there. These, Miady-Karib began by persecuting, but afterwards changed his policy and surrounded himself with Abyssinian guards. One day, however, when he was out hunting, these guards fell upon him and slew him, and thus finally extinguished the dynasty of Himyar. An Abyssinian, whose name is not mentioned, then seized the supreme power, and el-Y^men was for some time filled with violence and bloodshed. In a.d. 595, however, Wahrd.7.^

i82 'ilAm-en-nAs,

but completed his devotions before returning their salutation. Then they told him, " el-HajjAj has sent to fetch thee."

" And is compliance absolutely necessary > ** he asked.

" Absolutely," they replied.

So he praised and glorified God, and blessed His prophet, and then rose and walked with them until they came to the monastery of the monk, who called out, ** O ye horsemen ! have ye found your friend .?" " Yes," they replied. " Then come up into the monastery," said he ; " for of a truth lions and lionesses prowl round about it during the night. Therefore come in quickly, before dusk."

And they all did so excepting Said, who refused to

with an army of 4,cxx) men, again invaded el-Ydmen, and in- flicted cruel retribution upon the Abyss in ians, whom to the number of about 3,000 he put to death. The Persian monarch was so much pleased with his conduct that he appointed Wahr^ viceroy of the country, and then it was that el-Y^menand its dependenties became provinces of the Persian empire. The Persian rule was mild, and the three religions. Pagan, Jewish, and Christian, were equally tolerated. Christianity maintained its ground (chiefly at Nejrdn, which place was at the time of the Hijrah governed by a noble Christian family named Oulad 'Abd- el-Ma:ddn-ibn-Deyyan), but rapidly declined after the promulga- tion of Muhammadism.



enter. Finding which, they said to him, " It appears to us that thou desirest to escape."

He replied, " Not so ; but nevertheless I will never enter a polytheistic habitation/'

" But of a truth we will not leave thee," said they ; " for verily the lions will kill thee."

Said Said, " If my Lord bewith me, He will turn them away from me ; and should such be the will of the Most High, He can convert them into a guard for me against all evil."

They asked, " Art thou a prophet V

" I am not among the prophets," he answered, " but am, on the contrary, a slave among the erring and sinful servants of God."

So they said, " Swear to us that thou wilt not flee.'* And he swore it Then the monk cried out to them, " Come up into the monastery, and string your bows in readiness to scare away the lions from this pious slave. For verily the thought of your taking up your abode with me in the chapel was abhorrent to him."

So they entered the monastery, and strung their bows. And lo ! they beheld a lioness approaching. But when she came near Said, she rubbed herself

i84 'ILAM-EN-NJ^S,

fondling against him, and caressed him. Then she laid down near to him, and the lion came and did likewise. And having seen this, as soon as day dawned the monk went down to Said, and questioned him concerning the divine laws of el-Isldm, and the traditions of the prophet of AUdh. And Said ex- plained everything clearly to him, and the monk professed el-Isldm, and his practice therein was admirable. And the people assembled before Sdid, excusing themselves to him ; and they kissed his hands and his feet, and collected the earth that he had trodden upon during the night, and prayed upon it. And they said, " O Said ! we swore to el-Haj jdj, by divorce and enfranchisement,* that if we found thee we would not leave thee until we had brought thee unto him. But now order us as thou wilt"

He said, " Fulfil your task ; for there is no way to escape from the return to my Maker, nor any ques- tioning of His decree."

So they journeyed until they reached Wasit ;t and

  • A solemn oath, the breaking of which entailed the divorce

of wives and enfranchisement of slaves.

t The town built by el-Hajjaj A.H. 83. Wisit signifies " middle," and was so called because it stood midway between el-Bdsrah and el-KClfah.



when they arrived there, Said said to them, " O all ye people ! I have been respected by you, and have been your companion, and I feel certain that my end draws near, and that my time is accomplished. Leave me alone, therefore, this night, that I may make provision for death, and prepare for Miinkar and Naktr,* and reflect upon the torments of the grave, and that I must lie beneath the ground. And in the early morning I will come to any spot you may choose as a meeting-place between us."

Then said some among them, " We do not want to be following traces, having the man himself." And another one said, " And surely you would wish your desires fulfilled, and that the Amir should deem you worthy of his favour ; therefore leave him not alone." But then another said, " I take it upon myself to restore him to you, if it be the will of God."

Then they looked at Said, and tears were flowing

  • Two angels through whom the dead, when laid in the grave,

undergo a strict examination as to their past lives. There is a difference of opinion amongst Muslims as to these angels. Some hold that there are only two (Miinkar and Nakir) by whom all human beings, whether true believers or infidels, are exa- mined. Others maintain that these angels are four in number, Miinkar and Nakir being for infidels, and two other angels, named Mubishir and Bashir, for true believers.

i86 'ILAmEN-NAs,

from his eyes, and his colour was grey, for he had neither eaten nor drank nor laughed since they had met him. So they cried with one accord, " O thou best of living men ! Would to God we had never known thee, and never been sent for thee ! Woe be to us ! How hardly have we been dealt with ! What will excuse us before our Maker at the great Day of Resurrection, and who shall answer for us to Him!"

Then he who had offered to be his surety said to SAtd, " I ask thee by Alldh, O Satd ! whether thou wilt not provide for us by thy prayers and thy good words ? For in truth we have never met the like of Ihec ?

So SAtd prayed for them ; after which they left him alone. Then he bathed his head, and washed his nhirt and his robe. And the people remained con- iT aldtl the whole night. And when the light of dawn appeared, SAtd-ibn-Jubair came to them, and knocked at the door. And they cried one to another, "Our fiitMul, by the Lord of the Kdabah !** And they went down to him, and wept with him a long while, and tlien look him before el-Hajjdj.

And el-Mutaldmmis entered the presence of el-


Hajjdj, and saluted him, and announced to him the arrival of Satd-ibn-Jubair. And when Satd stood before him, el-Hajjdj asked, "What is thy name ? "

He replied, " Sa!d-ibn-Jubair."

"Thou art Shaky-ibn-Kasir,"* said el-Hajjdj.

" No," said Satd, " my mother knew my name better than thou dost."

"Thou art vile, and so was thy mother!" cried el-Hajjaj.

" That which is hidden is known to Another beside thee," answered Satd.

" Of a surety I will soon change this world into hell- fire for thee," said el-Hajjdj.

" Had I known that that had been in thy power," responded Satd, " verily I had abased myself before thee as before a god."

Then el-Hajj^j asked, "What sayest thou of Muhammad V*

" He is the Prophet of the Merciful," replied Said.

  • The play upon words in this sentence cannot be rendered

in English. Shdky means " vile," " evil," the opposite of Said^ which means " good," " happy." And Kasir, from Kdsara^ " to break," is the opposite of Jubair^ from ydbara, " to mend," " to heal," " to unite."

i88 'ILAM'EN'NAs,

" And what dost thou say of * Aly ? " continued el- Hajj^j ; " Is he in heaven or in hell ? '*

" Had I been in both," answered Said, ** and did I know the inhabitants of both, I could tell who was in both/^

•' And what dost thou say of the Khalifahs ?" asked el-Hajjaj.

" I am not their overseer," replied Said. *

    • Which of them dost thou love best ? " inquired


" He among them who was the most pleasing to my Maker,'* answered Said.

" And which of them was the most pleasing to the Creator ? " said el-Hajjdj.

  • 'That knowledge,'* replied Said, "rests with

Him who knows their inmost thoughts and secret words."

'* And how is it that thou laughest not ?" asked el- HajjTij.

"How should a creature formed out of clay — clay which may be consumed in the fire — laugh ? ** re- sponded Said.

"And why is it that we ourselves cannot laugh ?" inquired cl-HajjAj.


The thoughts of the heart are not pure," said Satd.

Then el-Hajjij ordered pearls and emeralds and rubies to be brought in and laid before Said. But he said, " If by accumulating these thou couldst ransom thyself from the terrors of the Day of Resurrection — well. But one of those terrors would cause a mother to f«rget her sucking child ; and every worldly pos- session will be profitless, except what did good, and was laid out in charity."

Then el-Hajjaj sent for pleasant music. And Said wept. So el-Hajjaj cried, " Woe be to thee, O Satd ! Choose by what kind of death I shall kill thee."

" Choose for thyself, O Hajjaj ! " replied Said ; " for by Allah ! whatever death thou causest me to die, by the same will God cause thee to die at the last day."

Then asked el-Hajjdj, " Wouldst thou that I pardon thee .> "

He replied, " Wer^ the pardon .from A113.h, — yes, assuredly. But from thee, — no."

" Be off with him and execute him ! " cried el- HajjAj.

Then as he was going out of the door, Said laughed. And el-Hajjaj was told of this, and ordered Kvks be brought back, and asked, " What causes thee to laugh ? "

"I was marvelling," answered Said, " at thy provocation of AUAh, and at His long-suffering toward thee."

Then el-Hajjclj commanded to bring the Nit£a* And it was spread out before him, and he cried, " Kill him ! "

And Said said, " I gave myself up to the worship of Him who laid out the heavens and the earth, bclicxing in the true faith, and I am not one of the jK4ythcists."

'* Turn him away from the Kiblah ! " called out el0Hcyj^\

    • Wherever thou mayst turn me, there is God's

countenance/* said Said.

    • ti*>' him with his face on the ground," commanded

Ihcu SAW quoted, Out of it We created you, and <^» »t \\\x >YiH oausc you to return, and from it We will onve lUvMv^ euuv^c yoM to come forth."

" KiU \xx\yy > - ^vain cried el-Hajjdj.

I »^vu SAivi .^^^i,^^ « I y^^^ witness that there is no god but God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His messenger. O Alldh ! grant that after me he may have power over none other to kill him !

Then they executed him upon the NitSHa [may God have mercy upon him !] And after his head was struck off, it uttered, " There is no god but God." And el-Hajjdj lived after this fifteen days. And this happened in the year 95. And the age of Said [may God be satisfied of him !] was nine-and-forty years.*

Allah is all-knowing!

  • It is said that during his last illness el-Hajjij was tormented

by the spirit of Sitd-ibn-Jubair. The report was that whenever he fell asleep he saw S4td come and seize him by the girdle, saying, " Enemy of God, arise ! why didst thou murder me ? " On which he would awake in terror, and exclaim, " What busi- ness has Siid-ibn-Jubair with me?" It is also related that a person saw el-Hajjij in a dream after his death, and that upon being asked what had been done to him, he stated that God had caused him to die the death of every man whom he had slain, but that he had suffered seventy deaths on account of his treat- ment of the saintly Sdid.