Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/The sad Tale of the Lovers who died of Love



'Abd-el'Milik, the son of Marwdn (for whom see Note *, p. 55), was the fifth Khalifah of the 'Omeyyah dynasty. He obtained the surname Rashi-el-Hdjar, Sweat of a stone, or as we should paraphrase it Skin-flint, on account of his extreme avarice. The anecdote here given does not, however, answer to that character of him. In power he surpassed all his predecessors, and it was in his reign that the Muslim arms made conquests in India in the east, and in Spain in the west. He began his reign a.h. 65 (a.d. 684), and died A.H. 86. He was succeeded by his son el-Walid, the eldest of sixteen sons, of whom three besides el-Walid reigned over the Khalifate.

El-Hajj4j, son of Yiisufj was governor of 'Ir4k and Khodtss^n for 'Abd-el-Mdlik, son of Marw^. For a ftirther account of him see Note/, p. 151.

np'HE first who was called 'Abd-el-Malik in el-Isldm, -** was the son of Marw&n ; and his surname was Rashi-el-Hdjar. The following tale is told of him in the Haydt-el-Haiw4n, and is also mentioned by Muhammad-ibn-Wclsi '1 Haity.

'Abd-el-Mdlik-ibn-Marwclh sent the following letter to el-Hajj4j-ibn-Y(isuf: — '^In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful, to el-Hajj&j-ibn-YAsuf. When this my letter reaches thee, and thou hast read it, send to me three foreign slave-girls, full-grown, virgins. They must possess the very perfection of beauty. And write to me a description of each one of them, and the amount of her value in money."

So when el-Hajj&j had read the letter, he sent for the Nakhkhdsin, that is, the slave-merchants, and laid upon them the commands which he had received from the Commander of the Faithful, ordering them at the same time to search through the towns until they should attain their end. So they went from town to town and from country to country, until having found what they sought, they returned to el-Hajj4j with three foreign full-grown virgin slave-girls, whose like was nowhere to be found. And el-Hajjdj was loud in his praise, and set himself to examine each one of them, and to estimate her money value. And he found that they were priceless, and that each one of them was worth the cost of them all.

Then he wrote a letter to 'Abd-el-Mdlik, the son of Marwcln, in which, after the customary sa.l\\ta.\.\Qtv>Vi&


said : " The letter of the Commander of the Faithful

[may God prolong his days to me] wherein he

commands me to buy for him three full-grown foreign

virgin slave-girls, and to write him a description of

each one of them, and her value, has reached me.

Concerning the first girl — may AU^h lengthen the

days of the Commander of the Faithful ! for her

throat is slender, her back broad, her eyes black as

antimony, her cheeks sweet ; verily her bosom is

rounded, and the flesh of her limbs is like gold

mingled with silver, and she resembles that which is

said :

The ornament of her who is fair is the blackness of her eye, As if she were silver well mingled with gold.

And her price, O Commander of the Faithful! is thirty thousand dirhems. And with regard to the second girl. Verily she is superbly beautiful, of just stature and perfect proportion. So gentle is her speech, that hearing it, the sick would recover health. And her price, O Commander of the Faithful! is thirty thousand dirhems. And as to the third girl. Truly her glance is languishing, her hand exquisite, her form faultless ; she is grateful for little, obedient to her friend ; her elegance is astonishing, as though


she were descended from a gazelle. And her price, O Commander of the Faithful! is eighty thousand dirhems." Then he added thanks and praise to the Commander of the Faithful, and folded and sealed the letter.

And he sent for the slave-merchants, and said, " Prepare to journey with these girls to the Com- mander of the Faithful."

But one of them cried, " May AUdh strengthen the Prince ! I am an old man and too feeble for tra- velling ; yet I have a son who can take my place : have I permission to equip him } "

El-HajjSj replied, "Yes." So they made ready and set forth. '

And in the course of their journey they stopped at certain places to rest ; and the slave-girls slept. And on one occasion the wind blew, and lifted the veil of one amongst them, and the dazzling light of her beauty appeared. And she was a KAfite, and her name MaktAm. And the son of the slave-mer- chant saw her, and in one moment was overcome by love. Now he was a comely youth ; and profiting by the inattention of his masters, he went towards her and began reciting :

ly) 'ILAM-EN^NAs,

Ah ! Maktiun^ my eye with weeping wearies not, And my heart by grievous darts is pierced ! Ah I Maktiim, how many lovers has love destroyed ? My heart is captive, how can I hide my passion ?

Then she answered him, saying :

If these thy words be true, why didst thou not seek us At night, when closed were the eyes of envy ?

So when night fell, the son of the slave-merchant girt on his sword, and came to the girl, and found her standing up awaiting his approach. And he took her and hoped to make his escape with her. But his masters became aware of it, and seized him, and bound him with cords, and loaded him with irons. And he was kept as a prisoner amongst them until they stood before 'Abd-el-Mdlik.

And when they presented themselves to him with the slave-girls, he took the letter and opened it and read it. And he found that two of the girls answet-ed to the descriptions, but that the third did not, and she was the girl from el-Kiifah. And perceiving that her face was wan, he said to the slave-mer- chants, " What ails this girl } She does not answer to the description given of her by el-Hajj&j in his letter. And what means this pallor and wasting away .^ '*


Then they made answer, " O Commander of the Faithful ! we will tell thee, and we put ourselves under thy protection."

"If you speak the truth," said he, "you may trust in me ; but if you lie, you shall perish."

So one of the slave-merchants went out, and brought in the young man bound with chains. And when they stood before the Commander of the Faithful, the young man wept bitter tears, and made certain of punishment. Then he composed these lines, and recited them:

Commander of the Faithful !
I am brought, humbled to the dust,
And, verily, my hand is bound unto my neck.
I confess the wicked act, and my evil deed ;
And am not guiltless of that whereof I am accused.
Dost thou kill me, my crime merits worse than death,
Dost thou pardon^ 'twill be thro' generosity towards me.

Then said 'Abd-el-Mdlik to him, " O young man ! how could such a thing have entered thy mind? Was it through scorn of us, or for love of the girl?"

He replied, " By thy truth, O Commander of the Faithful ! and by the greatness of thy power, it was solely for love of the girl."

Then said the Commander of the Faithful, " She is thine, with all that had been prepared for her."

So the young man took the girl, with all the ornaments and pearls that the Commander of the Faithful had made ready for her. And he journeyed with her happy and contented, until at a certain road they stopped to halt for the night.

And when day dawned and their people wished to continue the journey, they came to rouse them, and found them clasped in each other's arms, both dead !

And they wept over them, and buried them by the roadside, and sent news of them to the Commander of the Faithful, 'Abd-el-Malik, the son of Marwan. And he wept for them, and marvelled at it.