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The Khalif Omar Ben Abdulaziz And The Poets
by [?]

The Khalif Omar Ben Abdulaziz and the Poets.[41]

[Footnote 41] Breslau Text, vol. vl. pp. 182-188, Nights ccccxxxii-ccccxxxiv.

It is said that, when the Khalifate devolved on Omar ben Abdulaziz[42] (of whom God accept), the poets [of the time] resorted to him, as they had been used to resort to the Khalifs before him, and abode at his door days and days, but he gave them not leave to enter, till there came to Omar Adi ben Artah,[43] who stood high in esteem with him. Jerir[44] accosted him and begged him to crave admission for them [to the Khalif]. “It is well,” answered Adi and going in to Omar, said to him, “The poets are at thy door and have been there days and days; yet hast thou not given them leave to enter, albeit their sayings are abiding[45] and their arrows go straight to the mark.” Quoth Omar, “What have I to do with the poets?” And Adi answered, saying, “O Commander of the Faithful, the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve) was praised [by a poet] and gave [him largesse,] and therein[46] is an exemplar to every Muslim.” Quoth Omar, “And who praised him?” “Abbas ben Mirdas[47] praised him,” replied Adi, “and he clad him with a suit and said, ‘O Bilal,[48] cut off from me his tongue!'” “Dost thou remember what he said?” asked the Khalif; and Adi said, “Yes.” “Then repeat it,” rejoined Omar. So Adi recited the following verses:

I saw thee, O thou best of all the human race, display A book that came to teach the Truth to those in error’s way.

Thou madest known to us therein the road of righteousness, When we had wandered from the Truth, what while in gloom it lay.

A dark affair thou littest up with Islam and with proof Quenchedst the flaming red-coals of error and dismay.

Mohammed, then, I do confess, God’s chosen prophet is, And every man requited is for that which he doth say.

The road of right thou hast made straight, that erst was crooked grown; Yea, for its path of old had fall’n to ruin and decay.

Exalted mayst thou be above th’ empyrean heaven of joy And may God’s glory greater grow and more exalted aye!

[Footnote 42] The eighth Khalif (A.D. 717-720) of the house of Umeyyeh and the best and most single-hearted of all the Khalifs, with the exception of the second, Omar ben Khettab, from whom he was descended.

[Footnote 43] A celebrated statesman of the time, afterwards governor of Cuia* and Bassora under Omar ben Abdulaziz.

[Footnote 44] The most renowned poet of the first century of the Hegira. He is said to have been equally skilled in all styles of composition grave and gay.

[Footnote 45] Or eternal.

[Footnote 46] Or “in him.”

[Footnote 47] Chief of the tribe of the Benou Suleim. Et Teberi tells this story in a different way. According to him, Abbas ben Mirdas (who was a well-known poet), being dissatisfied with the portion of booty allotted to him by the Prophet, refused it and composed a lampoon against Mohammed, who said to Ali, “Cut off this tongue which attacketh me,” i.e. “Silence him by giving what will satisfy him,” whereupon Ali doubled the covetous chief’s share.

[Footnote 48] Bilal ibn Rebeh was the Prophet’s freedman and crier. The word bilal signifies “moisture” or (metonymically) “beneficence” and it may well be in this sense (and not as a man’s name) that it is used in the text.

“And indeed,” continued Adi, “this ode on the Prophet (may God bless and keep him!) is well known and to comment it would be tedious.” Quoth Omar, “Who is at the door?” “Among them is Omar ibn [Abi] Rebya the Cureishite,”[49] answered Adi, and the Khalif said, “May God show him no favour neither quicken him! Was it not he who said … ?” And he recited the following verses: