Introduction.

The text is from the book Jawāhiri al-‘Adab fī ‘Adabiyyat wa ‘Insha’ Lughat al-‛Arab by al-Sayyid ‘Ahmad al-Hāshimī. It contains various ancient prose and poetry texts that depict the high style and eloquence that has been exhibited by the Arabs in their literary culture across the centuries from the Jāhilīyya to the period of Andalus. This particular text represents the power play that words could carry in the ritual of supplication between an ordinary citizen and a royalty. The story behind the incident has been narrated in various history books. It was claimed that when Harun al-Rashid assumed the caliphate of the Abassid in the century in the eigth century Yahya bin Khalid and his family supported him and as a result he rewarded them well by appointing the father and his two sons, Ja’far and Fadl to high positions in the administration of the empire. Harun developed so much trust and love for the family that he virtually gave them free hand to rule on his behalf. Ja’far was his boon companion and he permitted him (Ja’far) to marry his sister secretly with the promise that he would never touch her. But Ja’far broke the promise and had a child with Harun’s sister. Although they tried to hide the issue from Harun he came to hear of it and ordered that Ja’far be decapitated and parts of his body hanged on the bridges of Baghdad. In addition to that, he confiscated the property of the Barmakide family and threw Yahya and his other son Fadl into jail. The wife of Yahya, who had suckled Harun tried to intercede on behalf of her husband and son but unsuccessfully

and the Barmakids effectively ran the empire for Harun. Harun was raised at court and received the bulk of his education from Yahya the Barmakid. Beyrut.htm) 3 Yahya was the son of Khalid bin Barmak. a Kurdish soldier who served the Abassid’s in their campaign against the Umayyad’s. and named second in line to the throne (after his older brother. pp." which means "the one following the right path". and Ibn Khallikān mentioned that her name was ‛Utābah and there are other histories who Mentioned that her name was ‛Ādah. Harun was made the nominal leader of several expeditions against the Eastern Roman Empire. Harun was a great patron of art and learning. who would go to war after Harun's death. Azerbaijan. 809) was the fifth Abbasid caliph. Al-Rashid used to consult her as a show of respect for her and to get the blessing from her advice. From his early age. al-Ţibrī on the other hand referred to her as Zeynab bint Munīr. Egypt. Scheherazade. He was appointed a vazir by the first Abassid Caliph. He also divided his empire between his sons al-Amin and al-Ma'mun. 1. Regional dynasties were given semiautonomous status in return for considerable annual payments. and is best known for the unsurpassed splendor of his court and lifestyle. tells the tales) may have been based on Harun himself. Al-Mahdi died in 785 and al-Hadi died mysteriously in 786 (it was rumored that al-Khayzuran arranged his death). and Harun became caliph in September of that year. v.Ummu1 Ja’far bin Yahya’s supplication before Al-Rashid2 on behalf of Yahya3 her husband. Al-Khayzuran had considerable influence over her son until her death in 803. Sahlu bin Harun said: “Ummu Ja’far bin Yahya had suckled al-Rashid together with Ja’far. Mu’assasat al-Ma‛ārif.Khayzuran. which enriched Harun financially but weakened the power of the caliphs. . and King Shahryar (whose wife. who installed a cadre of Barmakids as administrators. Abu Abas al-Saffah as well by the second Caliph Ja’far al-Mansūr. He was also appointed governor of Armenia. Syria and Tunisia. (www. While al-qālī referred to her as Fāţumah Bint Muhammad bin al-Husein bin Qahbaţah. (al-Sayyid Ahmad al-Hāshimī. historymedren. which Yahya administered for him.about. Jawāhiri al-‘Adab fī ‘Adbīyyāt wa ‘Inshā’I Lughati al-‛Arab. He appointed as his vizier Yahya. and she nurtured him in her bosom and fed him with her breast milk. He had sworn while he was in her custody not to keep a barrier between him and her and never should she 1 There is no agreement between histories regarding her real name. 85) 2 Harun al-Rashid (763 – March 24. Born to the caliph al-Mahdi and the former slave-girl al. Some of the stories of The Thousand and One Nights were inspired by the glittering Baghdad court. He died in 165 AH (722AD) living his son Yahya who was later appointed by the Caliph to assume his father’s position. his success resulted in his earning the title "al-Rashid. Yahya served al-Mansur and his son al-Mahdi as well as al-Rashid for whom he was like a godfather. who was a loyal supporter of Harun's mother. al-Hadi). Al-Rashid later killed Yahya’s son Ja’far and imprisoned the other members of Yahya’s family who all died in prison.com/library/who/blwwrashid.

oh Commander of the Faithful. . Many were the prisoners that she had set free. Commander of the Faithful.” Then she entered. on her part. for many had been the hearts that she had kept alive.intercede on behalf of anyone but that he would grant her her wish.” Rashid said: “Woe unto you Abdul Malik! Is she walking?” He said: “Yes. on her barefoot. When her son Ja’far was killed and her husband Yahya was detained together with the rest of his household. he stood up and walked barefoot until he met her between the pillars of the council chamber. she asked permission to see him and she sought to get acquaintance with him but he refused to see her and did not order anything to be done about it. and 4 Ja’far was the son of Yahya who grew up with al_Rashid and suckled together. And Umm Ja’far4. for you? And would slander carry you to be angry against us? Had I not nursed you in my bosom. walking barefoot. you had guaranteed me against my enemies and the adversities of time?” Then he said to her: “What could the matter be. Then he sat her beside him and then she said: “Would time come between us? And would bodyguards threaten us with fear. and many puzzles before him that she had solved and difficult issues from which she had relieved him. in a state which will turn the spite of the envious into the tenderness of a single mother. laying down the veil from her face and walking barefoot until she reached the gate of al-Rashid’s palace. then he bent down and kissed her head and her bosom. Al-Rashid upon hearing that Ja’far had had a child with his sister had him killed and dismembered the body which was hanged over the bridges of Baghdad for three years before he ordered that it be burnt. and neither would she intercede on behalf of any criminal. had sworn not to go before him unless with his permission. When she could bare it any longer.” He said: “Let her in. Abdul Malik. And when Rashid saw her entering. and worries that she had dispelled and shames that she had covered. mother of Rashid?” Then she said: “Your nurse Yahya. Then Abdul Malik bin al-Fadl the usher entered and said: “Your nurse is at the door. and for suckling you. she went out bare headed.

the high: ‘And those who suppress their anger and those who forgive people. the order has anticipated (your intervention) and sentence has been passed and God’s anger has been executed.your second father after your father. this is what He has not cleared. Yahya was the only one who stood by the side of al-Rashid and changed the mind of his brother to confirm him in his psot.” She said: “Commander of the Faithful. Commander of the Faithful. and his risking his life for him in the matter of his brother Musa. ‘What God wishes he clears or affirms. and God loves those who do kind deeds. 13:39 7 Abu Zu’aib al-Huzali 8 . This is besides the saying of God the mighty. and I will say: ‘You will cut your right hand in the world If you cut me.” 5 After the death of al-Mansur.”5 He said to her: “Mother of Rashid. his son Musa al-Hādī assumed the caliphate and he had wanted to diverge the caliphate from his brother al-Rashid who was the crown prince. and with him is the mother book. The first had said: ‘When you are in need of treasures you won’t find A treasure better than good deeds”. I will not describe him more than what the Commander of the Faithful himself knows about him. consider then which hand you will exchange” Harun said: “I accept. what about you?” Then Rashid bowed down his head awhile and then he said: “When Fate fixes her claws You will find all Tamim of no avail”7 Then she said off hand: “I cannot be compared to Tamim vis-à-vis Yahya.” She said: “If Fate is hidden from the prophets. concerning his advice and affection for him. 6 The Thunder.’ 6” He said: “That is right.”8 Then he bowed down his head awhile and then said: “Mother of Rashid I will say: ‘When my soul turns away from something It will hardly turn the face again to meet it” She said: “Commander of the Faithful.

” When she realized that his mind was made up to refuse her request and shrink from it. He is the mighty the merciful’ 10. your pledge not to intercede on behalf of a criminal. The Messenger of God – May God’s peace and mercy be upon him – said: ‘He who forgoes something for the sake of God will not be made by God to feel aggrieved for loosing it’”. strands of his hair and his middle incisors. he returned all that in the box and said: “How well you have preserved the trust!” 9 10 Al-Imran.9 She said: “Oh Commander of the Faithful: “On that day the believers will rejoice by God’s victory. 3:34 Al-Rum. Then Harun bowed down his head awhile and then raised it and said: “God controls the matter both before and after”. 30:5 . He makes victorious whom he wishes. seeking God’s assistance and appealing to what I have been acquainted with of your honorable body as well as your noble limbs. Then she said: “Oh Commander of the Faithful.” He said: “Remember. your pledge: never should I intercede. Rashid Said: “What is that?” Then she opened its golden lock and removed from it his prepuce.” Then Harun picked those things up and kissed them and shed tears and cried profusely till all those in the council chamber cried too. oh Commander of the Faithful.She said: “Then render him to me. And remember. than you would grant me my demand. they had all been immersed in musk. oh Commander of the Faithful. she brought out a small box made of green emerald and placed it in front of him. When he came to himself. I intercede with you. oh mother of Rashid. on behalf of Yahya your servant.

13’” He said: “And what is that. closed the box and gave it back to her and said: “God commands you to return the trusts to their owners”11. She said: “And God says: ‘When you judge between people.’ 12 And He says: ‘And redeem God’s pledge if you are bound to it. Commander of the Faithful.” He said: “Oh mother of Rashid. 16:91 . oh Commander of the Faithful. I have given him to you and made you free to do with him as you wish. judge justly. oh mother of Rashid?” She said: “Have you not pledged not to put a barrier between you and me and not to treat me with contempt?” He said: “Oh mother of Rashid. I have done so without choosing you.” He said: “For how much?” She said: “By your being pleased with the one who did not displease you.” She said: “You have been fair.She said: “And how worthy you are in requiting it!” He kept silent. and he remained bewildered. decide for your wish anything else than them. unable to say a word. You are dearer to me and they are more beloved to me. nor renouncing you.” She said: “Not at all.” 11 12 Al-Nisa’ 4:58 Al-Nisa’ 4:58 13 Al-Nahl. I would like you to buy it using your discretion.” He said: “Then.” She stood up and left him. don’t I have the same right upon you as they have?” She said: “Of course.

And by God.Sahl bin Harun Said: “She left and never came back. I have not seen her shed a tear nor heard her moan.” .

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