March 25, 2016

Palmette III

From the neck of an Athenian rhyton (ca. 460 BCE) attributed to Douris.
Art Institute of Chicago (1905.345).

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.' "

From Reports of Imbeciles and Simpletons by Ibn al-Jawzi