June 7, 2011

Apologia pro libris suis

It has struck my ear from the mouths of those who were at Khwarazm, and from the tongues of those who were passing through, that our master - may God perpetuate his superiority over all who lack his richness of soul, and over the officers who give him counsel - invited a gathering of men to revile me, impelling them to extravagance in their censure and abuse, and that he was deliberate in tearing aside the veiling curtains of gentility, on the charge that my library was wrongly acquired. Does this seem worthy of his merits and his virtue? Is it congruent with his nobility and and gentlemanly character? I am vexed by his dishonesty and injurious slander, which is a calumny against his Muslim brother. By God, when the horn is sounded on the Day of Resurrection, and these worn-out bones are resurrected from their tombs, armored in the clothes of the life to come, and the worshipers of God are gathered in the open spaces, and the record of every deed flies in the face of its doer, and every soul is asked about its acquisitions - on that day, the evildoer will be dragged face-down to the Fire, and the good-doer will be escorted to Paradise at the side of angels. On that frightening occasion, no one will be tugging at the tail of my cloak, asking for the return of any properties which I appropriated, or any wealth I took by force, or any blood that I shed, or any curtain I have torn, or any person I have killed, or any right that I have trampled on. With God's help, I have acquired some 1,000 manuscript volumes of crucial texts and vital writings, and endowed them all to libraries whose construction was ordered by God for the benefit of Muslims in all the countries of Islam. How does a fellow believer allow himself to envy the books of one of knowledge's foremost teachers, who has striven his whole life to obtain some modest papers, when their market value is unequal to the cost of a single feast? By God beside Whom there is no god, I swear that our master - may God perpetuate his superiority – has committed a false calumny against the likes of me, and done a wrong which will tangle his train and cause him to stumble on the Day of Resurrection. Let him fear God, beside Whom there is no god, and let him remember the Day on which the truthful will be repaid for their truthfulness and liars will be punished for their lies, wa-salām.

A letter to al-Qattan al-Marwazi by Rashid al-Din Watwat
(d. 578/1182)