**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


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

“He shall not come in to me. Who is at the door, other than he?” “El Akhtel et Teghlibi,”[56] answered Adi; and Omar said, “He is the unbeliever who says in his verse …” [And he repeated the following:]

Ramazan in my life ne’er I fasted, nor e’er Have I eaten of flesh, save in public[57] it were.

No exhorter am I to abstain from the fair, Nor to love Mecca’s vale for my profit I care;

Nor, like others a little ere morning appear who bawl, “Come to safety!”[58] I stand up to prayer.

Nay, at daybreak I drink of the wind-freshened wine And prostrate me[59] instead in the dawn-whitened air.

[Footnote 56] A Christian and a celebrated poet of the time.

[Footnote 57] The poet apparently meant to insinuate that those who professed to keep the fast of Ramazan ate flesh in secret. The word rendered “in public,” i.e. openly, avowedly, may also perhaps be translated “in the forenoon,” and in this El Akhtel may have meant to contrast his free-thinking disregard of the ordinances of the fast with the strictness of the orthodox Muslim, whose only meals in Ramazan-time are made between sunset and dawn-peep. As soon as a white thread can be distinguished from a black, the fast is begun and a true believer must not even smoke or swallow his saliva till sunset.

[Footnote 58] Prominent words of the Muezzin’s fore-dawn call to prayer.

[Footnote 59] i.e. fall down drunk.

“By Allah, he treadeth no carpet of mine! Who is at the door other than he?” “Jerir ibn el Khetefa,” answered Adi; and Omar said, “It is he who saith … ” [And he recited as follows:]

But for the spying of the eyes [ill-omened,] we had seen Wild cattle’s eyes and antelopes’ tresses of sable sheen.

The huntress of th’ eyes[Footnote 60] by night came to me. “Turn in peace,” [Quoth I to her;] “This is no time for visiting, I ween.”

[Footnote 60] i.e. she who ensnares [all] eyes.

“If it must be and no help, admit Jerir.” So Adi went forth and admitted Jerir, who entered, saying:

He, who Mohammed sent, as prophet to mankind, Hath to a just high-priest[61] the Khalifate assigned.

His justice and his truth all creatures do embrace; The erring he corrects and those of wandering mind.

I hope for present[62] good [and bounty at thy hand,] For souls of men are still to present[63] good inclined.

[Footnote 61] Imam, the spiritual title of the Khalif, as head of the Faith and leader (lit. “foreman”) of the people at prayer.

[Footnote 62] Or “worldly.”

[Footnote 63] Or “worldly.”

Quoth Omar, “O Jerir, keep the fear of God before thine eyes and say nought but the truth.” And Jerir recited the following verses:

How many, in Yemameh,[64] dishevelled widows plain! How many a weakling orphan unsuccoured doth remain,

For whom is thy departure even as a father’s loss! To fly or creep, like nestlings, alone, they strive in vain.

Now that the clouds have broken their promise to our hope, We trust the Khalif’s bounty will stand to us for rain.[65]

[Footnote 64] A town and province of Arabia, of which (inter alia) Omar ben Abdulaziz was governor, before he came to the Khalifate.

[Footnote 65] Syn. munificence.

When the Khalif heard this, he said, “By Allah, O Jerir, Omar possesseth but a hundred dirhems.”[66] [And he cried out to his servant, saying,] “Ho, boy! give them to him.” Moreover, he gave him the ornaments of his sword; and Jerir went forth to the [other] poets, who said to him, “What is behind thee?”[67] And he answered, “A man who giveth to the poor and denieth the poets, and I am well-pleased with him.”[68]

[Footnote 66] About 2 pounds sterling 10 s.

[Footnote 67] i.e. what is thy news?

[Footnote 68] Or “I approve of him.”