Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/The Story of the Young Man who was deemed Mad


TTISTORIANS relate that el-Hajjij-ibn-YAsuf, ^ -*" es-Thdkify, was keeping watch one night with his councillors, Khalid-ibn-'Urfutah being amongst them, to whom el-Hajjdj said, "O Khdlid! bring me a tale-teller from the mosque." [For in those days it was thought necessary that there should be some one continually in attendance at the mosques.] And Khilid went out and found a young man standing up praying. He therefore sat down until the latter had said, ** Peace be upon you !"* and then said to him, " Come to the Amir."

" Did the Amir send expressly for me V asked the young man. And when Khdlid replied, " Yes," he went with him, until, on arriving at the door, Khalid asked him, *' What canst thou narrate to the Amir V

  • At the end of a Muslim's prayers he says,," Peace be upon

you," first over the right shoulder and then over the left, to the recording angels who have their posts there.


"He shall find in me whatever he desires, in-shaa- AU&h ! " * replied the young man.

And when he appeared before el-Hajjdj, the latter asked him, " Hast thou read the Kurin ?" " I have," he replied ; " and have, moreover, committed it to memory."

"And dost thou know any poetry.?" asked el- Hajjdj.

, " There is not one of the poets that I have not studied," he answered.

" And art thou acquainted with the pedigrees t of the Arabs, and their adventures V continued el- Hajjij.

"Of all that, nothing is forgotten by me," the young man made answer. And he continued narrating .whatever the Amir desired, until the latter thought of

  • In-shaa-Alldh — If it please God. Nothing is ever proposed

to be done by a Muslim without his adding these words.

t The Arabs used to value themselves excessively on account of the nobility of their families ; and so many disputes occurred upon that subject that it is no wonder if they took great pains in settling their descents. A knowledge of the genealogies and history of their tribes was one of the three sciences chiefly cul- tivated by them before the time of Muhammad. The others were, a knowledge of the stars sufficient to foretell the changes of weather, and the power of interpreting dream.s.

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retiring, when he said, " O Khdlid ! make over to the young man a mule, and a slave boy and girl, and four thousand dirhems." Whereupon the young man exclaimed, " God save the Prince ! the prettiest and most wonderful of my tales yet remains."

So el-Hajjdj resumea his seat, saying, " Relate it." The young man began : " God save the Amir ! My father, perished when I was a child of tender years, and I was therefore brought up under the care of my paternal uncle, who had a beautiful daughter. And even in childhood we loved one another, and our love grew most wonderfully until the time came that we both learnt that matchmakers were eagerly seeking her, and offering to dower her with great wealth on account of her beauty and accomplishments. And when I saw this, sickness took possession of me, and I became weak and was laid upon my bed. Then I made ready a huge jar, which I filled with sand and stones, and sealing its mouth, I buried it under my bed. And after the fulfilment of certain days, I went to my uncle, and said, * O uncle ! of a truth I had determined upon travelling ; but I have lighted upon a vast treasure, and was afraid lest I might die without any one knowing about it. If therefore my end should come, bring it forth ; and liberate ten slaves for me ; and send somebody ten times on the pilgrimage for me ; and equip for me ten men with horses and weapons ; and bestow a thousand dinars for me in alms. And be not uneasy about it, O uncle ! for verily the treasure is considerable.* And when my uncle had heard my words, he went to his wife and made the same known to her. Then nothing could exceed the hurry with which she and her slave- girls set off to come to me. And she laid her hand on my head and said, ' By Alldh \ O son of my brother ! I did not know of thy illness nor of what had happened to thee until the father of So-and-so told me about it this moment.* And she talked to me coaxingly, and doctored me with medicines, and overpowered me with kindness, and drove the suitors away from her daughter. And when I saw this, I was upon my guard. After a while I sent to my uncle, and said, * O my uncle ! truly God, the Glorious and Most High, has been gracious unto me and restored me to health. Seek out for me, therefore, a girl with such and such beauty and accomplish- ments and qualities ; and let nothing be demanded from thee that thou dost not grant/ So l^e. -^^^'^'^^

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'O son of my brother! what hinders thee from choosing the daughter of thy uncle?' I made answer, ' She is to me the dearest of beings created by the Most High; but, verily, when ere now I sought her thou didst refuse me/ He said, *0n the contrary, the refusal was on the part of her mother ; and now she is quite reconciled to it and pleased at it/ So I said, ' Do as thou wilt' Then he returned to his wife and made my words known to her. And she assembled her kindred, and married me to the very girl. After which, I said, ' Hasten as thou wilt to bring me the daughter of my uncle ; afterwards I will show thee the jar/ So she was brought to my house, and her mother did not omit anything that is customary amongst the most noble ladies ; but led her daughter to me in procession, and provided her with everything that came in her way. And my uncle bought ten thousand dirhems' worth of goods from the merchants. And every morning for some time there came to us gifts and offerings on the part of her relations. But when some days had gone by, my uncle came to me and said, *0 son of my brother! verily I bought from the merchants ten thousand dirhems* worth of goods; and they are impatient at the delay in payment* I said, ' The jar is thine whenever thou pleaseth/ So he went off in haste, and returned with men and ropes. And they dragged it forth, and carried it away quickly to his dwelling. But when he had turned it upside- down, there was only what I had put into it. Then not a moment was lost before the mother came with her slave-girls. And there was nothing great or small in my house which she did not carry off, leaving me as a beggar upon the bare ground, and treating me with every sort of unkindness. And this, God save the Amir ! is my condition ; and in my trouble and anguish of heart I have taken refuge in the mosques."

Then said el-Hajjdj, " O KhMid ! make over to the young man rich garments, and Armenian carpets, and a slave boy and girl, and a mule, and ten thousand dirhems." And he added, *'0 young man ! come to Khdlid to-morrow morning, and thou shalt receive all the goods from him."

So the young man went out from el-Hajjdj. He says : And when I reached the door of my house, I overheard the daughter of my uncle saying, " Would to God I knew what has delayed the son of my uncle I

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Has he been slain, or has he died, or can wild beasts have devoured him ! " He continues : So I entered, and cried, " O daughter of my uncle ! rejoice, and let thine eye be refreshed ! For verily I was taken before el-Hajjcij, and so-and-so occurred." And I related to her what had been my occupation. Then when the young woman heard my words, she smote her face and screamed aloud. And her father and her mother and her brethren heard her cries, and came in and asked her, "What aileth thee ?" And she answered her father, "May Alldh show no mercy to thee, neither reward thee with good on my account, nor on account of the son of thy brother ! Thou hast been cruel to him and hast despoiled him until thou hast brought madness upon him, and his reason has de- parted. Listen to his words !" Then said my uncle,

    • O son of my brother ! what has happened to

thee?" I answered, "By Allah! there is nothing amiss with me, only I was taken into the presence of el-Hajjdj."

And he related what he had been about, and that el-Hajjdj had ordered for him great riches. And when the uncle had heard his tale, he said, "This fellow is smitten with violent jaundice," and they re-


mained watching him all that night. And at day- break they sent him to the insane-doctor, who began treating him, and injected medicine through his nose, and otherwise prescribed for him. And the young man reiterated, " By Allih ! there is nothing the matter with me, only I was taken before el-Hajjaj and so-and-so occurred." But when he saw that his mention of el-Hajj4j did but increase his miseries, he left off speaking of him or of his recollection of him. So then when the doctor asked him, "What hast thou to say about el-Hajjdj ?" he replied, "I never saw him.'* Then the doctor went out, and said to the young man*s friends, " Verily the malady has departed from him. Nevertheless, be not hasty in removing his chains." So he was kept fettered, and with his hand chained to his neck.

And after some days el-Hajjcij remembered him, and said, " O Khdlid ! what has become of that young man ? "

" God save the Amtr !" replied Khilid, I have not seen him since he left the Amir s presence."

"Then send some one to him," said el-Hajjaj.

So Khalid despatched a soldier of the guard, who went to the young man's uncle, and asked him.

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    • What is the son of thy brother about ? For verily

he is wanted by el-Hajjdj."

The uncle replied, "Of a truth the son of my brother is otherwise occupied than with el-Hajjdj. Verily, he has been visited by disorder in his reason."

The soldier said, "I know nothing about that, but he must go this moment, there is no help for it."

So the uncle went and said to him, " O son of my brother ! el-Hajj^j has really sent to seek thee. Shall I therefore liberate thee ? "

He answered, " No ; unless in his presence."

So they bore him upon men's backs, in his fetters and chains, until they came before el-Hajjcij. And he, when he beheld him afar off, welcomed him until he reached his presence. Then the young man dis- played his fetters and chains, and said, '*God save the Prince ! Verily the end of my affair is more won- derful than the beginning of it." And he related to him his story. And el-Hajjaj marvelled, and said,

    • O Khdlid ! make what we had ordered for the young

• man double."

So he received the whole fortune, and his condition ' was excellent ; and he continued to be nightly tale- teller to el-Hajjdj until he died.