March 5, 2016

Comic Tales of Sayfawayh

The preacher Sayfawayh was a byword for dull-wittedness. Muhammad ibn al-‘Abbas ibn Hayyawayh said:

Sayfawayh was asked: "You who instruct the people, why do you not relate hadith?"
     He said: "Write this down: 'I was informed by Shurayk on the authority of Mughira on the authority of Ibrahim ibn ‘Abdallah likewise, with the same wording.' "
     "Likewise to what?" they asked him.
     "That's how I heard the hadith," he said, "and that's how I relate it."

Ibn Khalaf said: One day, a man was coming from a wedding, and Sayfawayh asked him what he'd had to eat. In the middle of the man's description, he said: "If only I could swallow the contents of your stomach!"

[...]

Abu 'l-‘Abbas ibn Mashruh tells that Sayfawayh bought a quantity of flour and took it home for his breakfast, then went out to seek his evening meal. "We baked no bread," [his patrons told him], "for lack of firewood."
     He said: "So did you bake any pies?"

Abu Mansur al-Tha‘alibi narrated that a man asked Sayfawayh the meaning of al-ghislīn ["suppuration"] in God's Book. He said: "God only knows. One time I put the same question to an elderly legal scholar whose family were from the Hijaz, and could not get the slightest bit from him."

Sayfawayh stopped at a graveyard while mounted on his ass. From one grave in particular the ass shied away, and he said: "This man must have been a veterinarian."

[Incorrectly,] Sayfawayh recited the Qur'anic verse (69:32): "Then set him in a chain of ninety cubits' length."
     "You added twenty cubits," they told him.
     "This chain was made for harlots and full-grown reprobates," he said. "For you, a ten-penny length of ribbon will suffice."

In his presence, the Qur'anic verse (10:27) was recited: "As if their faces were overshadowed by pieces of the night." Sayfawayh said: "This, by God, is what happens to people who indulge in night prayer!"

When the verse (55:58) was recited: "As if they were ruby or coral." Sayfawayh remarked: "Not like the shameless womenfolk of today!" [as if in response to 55:56 two verses prior].

Sayfawayh was asked: "When the inhabitants of Paradise crave asida, what do they do?" He said:
     "God sends them rivers of syrup, wheat and rice, and they are told: 'Make it and eat it, and excuse Us from your repast.' "

Ibn al-Jawzi, Reports of Imbeciles and Simpletons, ch. 20.