March 3, 2011

At 'Ayn Wabār

Abu Hatim said: One of our most dependable elders told of a man of Yemen who saw a camel like a beautiful white star, frisking amid his she-camels until all were mounted. When they had conceived, the he-camel went away and stayed away for one year’s time. It was after the man had delivered his camels of their offspring live and kicking that again he saw the he-camel, which stayed among the she-camels until they were fecundated anew. When the camel went away again, its offspring followed it, the man following them whither he knew not until he came to 'Ayn Wabār. (This is a spring of water belonging to the jinn, and its location is no longer known.) Among the wild camels, asses, gazelles and wild cows he found his flock under palms whose dates reached to their shoulders, such as no man had ever cultivated nor had any knowledge of.

He said: One of the jinn came up to the man and said: "What caused you to alight here?" "I followed these, my camels," the man said. The jinn said: "Finding you here on any day before today, I would have killed you. But go [with your life] and do not return. This he-camel is one of our herd." The jinn rounded up the camel’s offspring and drove them out along with the man. From this stock it is claimed that the noble Mahri camels are descended.

On his return, the man told one of the kings of Kinda about 'Ayn Wabār. The king wore himself out with long seeking but was never able to find it, and from that time up til now its location has remained unknown. And that is 'Ayn Wabār.

Similar expressions are mentioned by Abu Zayd and others: "I left him in a country that was tongue-tied," "I left him at the wild cow-licks," "I left him by the fox-ford," "I left him at the pond of last resort," and "I left him in a wasteland that was tongue-tied" are all said as one says "I left him at 'Ayn Wabār." All are places of which no one has any experience or knowledge.

From The Book of the Palm by Abu Hatim al-Sijistani (d. 869/255)