January 25, 2011

The source of the verse quoted lately

Abu 'l-Aswad al-Du'ali sent a messenger to al-Husayn ibn Abi 'l-Hurr al-'Anbari (grandfather of the judge 'Ubayd Allah ibn al-Hasan) and Nu'aym ibn Mas'ud al-Nahshali, who were revenue officers under Ziyad [ibn Abihi]. His hopes for the courtesy of an answer were gratified by al-Nu'aym, but al-Husayn tossed Abu 'l-Aswad's letter over his shoulder. On his return, the messenger informed Abu 'l-Aswad, who said:

        "When my letter came, you thought it was asking
             for charity, but my hopes lay in a different direction.
         My messenger informs me that
             your left hand took the letter,
         and with one look at the address you cast it aside
             like the cast-off, worn-out sole of your shoe.
         Nu'aym ibn Mas'ud is worthy of what came to him
             and you are worthy of what's already yours.
         It attacks and advances without awareness or knowledge:
             what else is stupidity, if not that?"

Muhammad ibn Sallam [al-Jumahi] said: "When a litigant got confused in his speech before [the above mentioned grandson,] 'Ubayd Allah ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Husayn ibn Abi 'l-Hurr the judge of Basra, 'Ubayd Allah quoted to him the verse:

        'He attacks and advances without awareness or knowledge.
             What else is stupidity, if not that?'

The man said: 'If Your Honor will allow me to approach, I have something to say.' 'You may approach,' said 'Ubayd Allah.
         "The man said: 'Of all people, it is you who have the most reason to keep quiet about that poem, for you know about whom it was spoken.' 'Ubayd Allah smiled, and said: 'It is evident to me that you are the wronged party in this case. Return to your home.' He then ordered the man's adversary to approach, and said: 'You are to pay him the full amount demanded.' "

From the Book of Songs of Abu 'l-Faraj al-Iṣbahani

January 24, 2011

On the ignorance of our preceptors

You (may you come to know of the good and by the good!) should know what a grave hazard to humankind it is to have ignorant authorities and misleading sources. Having been humankind's affliction from the earliest and most bygone of eras and days, it is much worse in our own time, in which we have wound up at the pinnacle of confusion and the murkiest extreme of turbidity.

Our learning has come from those without learning - nor judgment, sense or comprehension. Devoid of understanding, they give explanations, and without learning of their own they give instructions. All their learning is forged and feigned, and there is no slander they won't drum up and pass on. Being ignorant, they think themselves learned, and find fault with those whose learning is sound:

        "Busy in all things, he masters none of them.
         His guidance increases in nothing but error."

What is more, without his pretensions to being the wisest of men, his drivel brings him no pleasure. In reality he is a blight on his students, and to those seeking an education he is poison. In his mind, however, even an assembly of his own preceptors would be in need of his instruction. When he narrates, he prevaricates, and when questioned he vacillates. When disputed he yells, when contradicted he brawls, and when the proof against him is decisive he answers with foul language.

        "He attacks and advances without awareness or knowledge.
             What else is stupidity, if not that?"

The ignorance of such preceptors is off the scale established by al-Khalil when he declared the rankings of men, as related by Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn al-'Abbas [al-Suli] on the authority of Abu Ahmad Muhammad ibn Musa al-Barbari, on the authority of al-Zubayr ibn Bakkar [ibn al-'Awwam] who was told by al-Nadr ibn Shumayl:

"I heard al-Khalil say: 'Some people have knowledge, and know that they have knowledge. These are the learned, who should be followed. Some have knowledge without knowing that they have it; such people go astray, and should be led aright. Some do not have knowledge, and know that they lack it. These are the students, who should be taught. And some have no knowledge, and do not know that they lack it. These are the ignorant, and they should be avoided.' "

From The Classes of Grammarians by Abu 'l-Tayyib al-Lughawi

January 20, 2011

Princeton MS Garrett 1156H, fol. 20r

Garrett 1156H, 20r

[Siraj al-Din al-Warraq wrote in answer to a poem by Nasir al-Din al-Hammami:]

   "He summons the village to prayer, and the party
        whose worship is mischief and liquor and cups.
    His magnanimous nature alternates with his jealousy
        and his rival is never allowed to forget it.
    The pleasure he takes in his wives is apparent,
        as are his bright crown and his striped, fringed vestment.
    A heart full of fire in a breast that is slender:
        no better way to describe him than this."

And God, be He praised and exalted, knows best.

Chapter 4: Reports of the attributes of the Rooster of the Throne, peace be upon him, with close attention to the rare words they contain. The Rooster of the Throne is an angel of great magnitude in the form of a rooster. Abu 'l-Shaykh quotes Abu Bakr ibn [Abi] Maryam on the authority of Mughira [that the Prophet said:] "God, be He praised, has an angel in heaven called the Rooster, and when he praises God in heaven the roosters on earth praise Him also. He says: 'Praise be to the Most Holy, the Merciful, Compassionate and Divine King! There is no God but He.' And God will relieve the distress of any sick or troubled person who says the same."

Abu 'l-Shaykh also quotes Yusuf ibn Mahran on the authority of 'Abd al-Rahman that a man of Kufa said: "I have been told that beneath the Throne is an angel in the form of a rooster, with talons of pearl and a breast of green chrysolite. When the first third of the night has passed, it beats its wings and calls aloud, saying: 'Arise, ye wakers!' When half the night has passed, it beats its wings and calls aloud, saying 'Arise, ye watchers!' When the final third of the night has passed, it beats its wings and calls aloud, saying: 'Arise, ye worshipers!' And at the breaking of dawn it beats its wings and calls aloud, saying: 'Arise, ye sleepers,' and they resume their burdens." This hadith is also related with the word ghāfilūn ["heedless ones"] in place of nā'imūn ["sleepers"]. Alternate wordings are heard for the rooster's speech: "Praise be to the Noble and Uncreated!" after the first third of the night, "Praise be to the Generous unto those who disobey Him!" after the second third, and "Awake, ye heedless ones, for the hour before dawn belongs to God!" after the third. Burāthin [the word for “talons”] is pronounced with damma after the initial bā', followed by the letters rā', thā' and nūn

From The Book of Pointers and Indications that Clarify
the Attributes and Merits of the Rooster
by Ahmad ibn Ahmad
al-Fayyumi al-Gharqawi (fl.17th c.)