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The Jaafer Ben Yehya And Abdulmeilik Ben Salih The Abbaside
by [?]

Jaafer Ben Yehya and Abdulmeilik Ben Salih the Abbaside[144]

[Footnote 144] Breslau Text, vol. vii. pp. 251-4, Night dlxv.

It is told of Jaafer ben Yehya the Barmecide that he sat down one day to drink and being minded to be private (with his friends), sent for his boon-companions, in whom he delighted, and charged the chamberlain[145] that he should suffer none of the creatures of God the Most High to enter, save a man of his boon-companions, by name Abdulmelik ben Salih,[146] who was behindhand with them. Then they donned coloured clothes,[147] for that it was their wont, whenas they sat in the wine-chamber, to don raiment of red and yellow and green silk, and sat down to drink, and the cups went round and the lutes pulsed.

[Footnote 145] Syn. doorkeper (hajib).

[Footnote 146] Ibn Khelbkan, who tells this story in a somewhat different style, on the authority of Er Reshid’s brother Ibrahim ben El Mehdi, calls the person whom Jaafer expected “Abdulmelik ben Behran, the intendant of his demesnes.”

[Footnote 147] The wearing of silk and bright colours is forbidden to the strict Muslim and it is generally considered proper, in a man of position, to wear them only on festive occasions or in private, as in the text.

Now there was a man of the kinsfolk of the Khalif [Haroun er Reshid], by name Abdulmelik ben Salih ben Ali ben Abdallah ben el Abbas,[148] who was great of gravity and piety and decorousness, and Er Reshid was used instantly to require of him that he should keep him company in his carousals and drink with him and had proffered him, to this end, riches galore, but he still refused. It chanced that this Abdulmelik es Salih came to the door of Jaafer ben Yehya, that he might bespeak him of certain occasions of his, and the chamberlain, doubting not but he was the Abdulmelik ben Salih aforesaid, whom Jaafer had charged him admit and that he should suffer none but him to enter, allowed him to go in to his master.

[Footnote 148] The Abbasides or descendants of El Abbas, the Prophet’s uncle, were noted for their excessive pride and pretensions to strict orthodoxy in all outward observances. Abdulmelik ben Salih, who was a well-known general and statesman of the time, was especially renowned for pietism and austerity of manners.

When Jaafer saw him, his reason was like to depart for shame and he knew that the chamberlain had been deceived by the likeness of the name; and Abdulmelik also perceived how the case stood and confusion was manifest to him in Jaafer’s face. So he put on a cheerful favour and said, “No harm be upon you![149] Bring us of these dyed clothes.” So they brought him a dyed gown[150] and he put it on and sat discoursing cheerily with Jaafer and jesting with him. Then said he, “Give us to drink of your wine.” So they poured him out a pint and he said, “Be ye indulgent with us, for we have no wont of this.” Then he chatted and jested with them till Jaafer’s breast dilated and his constraint ceased from him and his shamefastness, and he rejoiced in this with an exceeding joy and said to Abdulmelik, “What is thine errand?” Quoth the other, “I come (may God amend thee!) on three occasions, whereof I would have thee bespeak the Khalif; to wit, firstly, I have on me a debt to the amount of a thousand thousand dirhems,[151] which I would have discharged; secondly, I desire for my son the office of governor of a province, whereby his rank may be raised; and thirdly, I would fain have thee marry him to a daughter of the Khalif, for that she is his cousin and he is a match for her.” And Jaafer said, “God accomplished! unto thee these three occasions. As for the money, it shall presently be carried to thy house; as for the government, I make thy son viceroy of Egypt; and as for the marriage, I give him to wife such an one, the daughter of our Lord the Commander of the Faithful, at a dowry of such and such a sum. So depart in the assurance of God the Most High.”

[Footnote 149] i.e. Do not let my presence trouble you.

[Footnote 150] As a member of the reigning family, he of course wore black clothes, that being the especial colour of the house of Abbas, adopted by them in opposition to the rival (and fallen) dynasty of the Benou Umeyyeh, whose family colour was white, that of the house of Ali being green.

[Footnote 151] About £25,000. Ibn Khellikan makes the debt four millions of dirhems or about £100,000

So Abdulmelik went away to his house, whither he found that the money had foregone him, and on the morrow Jaafer presented himself before the Khalif and acquainted him with what had passed and that he had appointed Abdulmelik’s son governor of Egypt and had promised him his daughter in marriage. Er Reshid approved of this and confirmed the appointment and the marriage. [Then he sent for the young man] and he went not forth of the palace of the Khalif till he wrote him the patent [of investiture with the government] of Egypt; and he let bring the Cadis and the witnesses and drew up the contract of marriage.