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Caliph Mu'awiyah was sitting one day in his palace at Damascus, in a room whose windows were open on all four sides, that the breeze might enter from every quarter. Now it was a day of excessive heat, with no breeze from the hills stirring, and the middle of the day, when the heat was at its height, and the Caliph saw a man coming along, scorched by the heat of the ground and limping, as he fared on barefoot. Mu'awiyah considered him awhile and said to his courtiers, "Hath Allah (may He be extolled and exalted!) created any miserabler than he who need must hie abroad at such an hour and in such sultry tide as this?" Quoth one of them, "Haply he seeketh the Commander of the Faithful;" and quoth the Caliph, "By Allah, if he seek me, I will assuredly give to him, and if he be wronged, I will certainly succour him. Ho, boy! Stand at the door, and if yonder wild Arab seek to come in to me, forbid him not therefrom." So the page went out and presently the Arab came up to him and he said, "What dost thou want?" Answered the other, "I want the Commander of the Faithful," and the page said, "Enter." So he entered and saluted the Caliph,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Six Hundred and Ninety-second Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the page allowed him to enter, the Badawi saluted the Caliph, who said to him, "Who art thou?" Replied the Arab, "I am a man of the Banu Tamim." "And what bringeth thee here at this season?" asked Mu'awiyah; and the Arab answered, "I come to thee, complaining and thy protection imploring." "Against whom?" "Against Marwan bin al-Hakam, thy deputy," replied he, and began reciting,
"Mu'awiyah, thou gen'rous lord, and best of men that be; * And oh, thou lord of learning, grace and fair humanity,
Thee-wards I come because my way of life is strait to me: * O help! and let me not despair thine equity to see.
Deign thou redress the wrong that dealt the tyrant whim of him * Who better had my life destroyed than made such wrong to dree.
He robbed me of my wife Su'ad and proved him worst of foes, * Stealing mine honour 'mid my folk with foul iniquity;
And went about to take my life before th' appointed day * Hath dawned which Allah made my lot by destiny's decree."
Now when Mu'awiyah heard him recite these verses, with the fire flashing from his mouth, he said to him, "Welcome and fair welcome, O brother of the Arabs! Tell me thy tale and acquaint me with thy case." Replied the Arab, "O Commander of the Faithful, I had a wife whom I loved passing dear with love none came near; and she was the coolth of mine eyes and the joy of my heart; and I had a herd of camels, whose produce enabled me to maintain my condition; but there came upon us a bad year which killed off hoof and horn and left me naught. When what was in my hand failed me and wealth fell from me and I lapsed into evil case, I at once became abject and a burden to those who erewhile wished to visit me; and when her father knew it, he took her from me and abjured me and drove me forth without ruth. So I repaired to thy deputy, Marwan bin al-Hakam, and asked his aid. He summoned her sire and questioned him of my case, when he denied any knowledge of me. Quoth I, 'Allah assain the Emir! An it please him to send for the woman and question her of her father's saying, the truth will appear.' So he sent for her and brought her; but no sooner had he set eyes on her than he fell in love with her; so, becoming my rival, he denied me succour and was wroth with me, and sent me to prison, where I became as I had fallen from heaven and the wind had cast me down in a far land. Then said Marwan to her father, 'Wilt thou give her to me to wife, on a present settlement of a thousand dinars and a contingent dowry of ten thousand dirhams, and I will engage to free her from yonder wild Arab!' Her father was seduced by the bribe and agreed to the bargain; whereupon Marwan sent for me and looking at me like an angry lion, said to me, 'O Arab, divorce Su'ad.' I replied, 'I will not put her away;' but he set on me a company of his servants, who tortured me with all manner of tortures, till I found no help for it but to divorce her. I did so and he sent me back to prison, where I abode till the days of her purification were accomplished, when he married her and let me go. So now I come hither in thee hoping and thy succour imploring and myself on thy protection throwing." And he spoke these couplets,
"Within my heart is fire * Whichever flameth higher; Within my frame are pains * For skill of leach too dire.
Live coals in vitals burn * And sparks from coal up spire: Tears flood mine eyes and down * Coursing my cheek ne'er tire:
Only God's aid and thine * I crave for my desire!"
Then he was convulsed, and his teeth chattered and he fell down in a fit, squirming like a scotched snake. When Mu'awiyah heard his story and his verse, he said, "Marwan bin al- Hakam hath transgressed against the laws of the Faith and hath violated the Harim of True Believers!"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Six Hundred and Ninety-third Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph Mu'awiyah heard the wild Arab's words, he said, "The son of Al-Hakam hath indeed transgressed against the laws of the Faith and hath violated the Harim of True Believers," presently adding, "O Arab, thou comest to me with a story, the like whereof I never heard!" Then he called for inkcase and paper and wrote to Marwan as follows, "Verily it hath reached me that thou transgresseth the laws of the Faith with regard to thy lieges. Now it behoveth the Wali who governeth the folk to keep his eyes from their lusts and stay his flesh from its delights." And after he wrote many words, which (quoth he who told me the tale) I omit, for brevity's sake, and amongst them these couplets,
"Thou wast invested (woe to thee!) with rule for the unfit; * Crave thou of Allah pardon for thy foul adultery.
Th' unhappy youth to us is come complaining 'mid his groans * And asks for redress for parting-grief and saddened me through thee.
An oath have I to Allah sworn shall never be forsworn; * Nay, for I'll do what Faith and Creed command me to decree.
An thou dare cross me in whate'er to thee I now indite * I of thy flesh assuredly will make the vulture free.
Divorce Su'ad, equip her well, and in the hottest haste * With Al-Kumayt and Ziban's son, hight Nasr, send to me."
Then he folded the letter and, sealing it with his seal, delivered it to Al-Kumayt and Nasr bin Ziban (whom he was wont to employ on weighty matters, because of their trustiness) who took the missive and carried it to Al-Medinah, where they went in to Marwan and saluting him delivered to him the writ and told him how the case stood. He read the letter and fell a-weeping; but he went in to Su'ad (as 'twas not in his power to refuse obedience to the Caliph) and, acquainting her with the case, divorced her in the presence of Al-Kumayt and Nasr; after which he equipped her and delivered her to them, together with a letter to the Caliph wherein he versified as follows,
"Hurry not, Prince of Faithful Men! with best of grace thy vow * I will accomplish as 'twas vowed and with the gladdest gree.
I sinned not adulterous sin when loved her I, then how * Canst charge me with advowtrous deed or any villainy?
Soon comes to thee that splendid sun which hath no living peer * On earth, nor aught in mortal men of Jinns her like shalt see."
This he sealed with his own signet and gave to the messengers who returned with Su'ad to Damascus and delivered to Mu'awiyah the letter, and when he had read it he cried, "Verily, he hath obeyed handsomely, but he exceedeth in his praise of the woman." Then he called for her and saw beauty such as he had never seen, for comeliness and loveliness, stature and symmetrical grace; moreover, he talked with her and found her fluent of speech and choice in words. Quoth he, "Bring me the Arab." So they fetched the man, who came, sore disordered for shifts and changes of fortune, and Mu'awiyah said to him, "O Arab, an thou wilt freely give her up to me, I will bestow upon thee in her stead three slave girls, high-bosomed maids like moons, with each a thousand dinars; and I will assign thee on the Treasury such an annual sum as shall content thee and enrich thee." When the Arab heard this, he groaned one groan and swooned away, so that Mu'awiyah thought he was dead; and, as soon as he revived, the Caliph said to him, "What aileth thee?" The Arab answered, "With heavy heart and in sore need have I appealed to thee from the injustice of Marwan bin al-Hakam; but to whom shall I appeal from thine injustice?" And he versified in these couplets,
"Make me not (Allah save the Caliph!) one of the betrayed * Who from the fiery sands to fire must sue for help and aid:
Deign thou restore Su'ad to this afflicted heart distraught, * Which every morn and eve by sorest sorrow is waylaid:
Loose thou my bonds and grudge me not and give her back to me; * And if thou do so ne'er thou shalt for lack of thanks upbraid!"
Then said he, "By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, wert thou to give me all the riches contained in the Caliphate, yet would I not take them without Su'ad." And he recited this couplet,
"I love Su'ad and unto all but hers my love is dead, * Each morn I feel her love to me is drink and daily bread."
Quoth the Caliph, "Thou confessest to having divorced her and Marwan owned the like; so now we will give her free choice. An she choose other than thee, we will marry her to him, and if she choose thee, we will restore her to thee." Replied the Arab, "Do so." So Mu'awiyah said to her, "What sayest thou, O Su'ad? Which does thou choose; the Commander of the Faithful, with his honour and glory and dominion and palaces and treasures and all else thou seest at this command, or Marwin bin al-Hakam with his violence and tyranny, or this Arab, with his hunger and poverty?" So she improvised these couplets,
"This one, whom hunger plagues, and rags unfold, * Dearer than tribe and kith and kin I hold;
Than crowned head, or deputy Marwan, * Or all who boast of silver coins and gold."
Then said she, "By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I will not forsake him for the shifts of Fortune or the perfidies of Fate, there being between us old companionship we may not forget, and love beyond stay and let; and indeed 'tis but just that I bear with him in his adversity, even as I shared with him in prosperity." The Caliph marvelled at her wit and love and constancy and, ordering her ten thousand dirhams, delivered her to the Arab, who took his wife and went away. And they likewise tell a tale of...
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Burton, Richard (1821-1890). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London. 1885-1888. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. VII. Gutenberg Vol. VIII. Gutenberg Vol. IX. Gutenberg Vol. X. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.
1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM