TALE OF HARUN AL-RASHID AND THE SLAVE-GIRL AND THE IMAM ABU YUSUF.



It is said that Ja'afar the Barmecide was one night carousing with Al Rashid, who said, "O Ja'afar, it hath reached me that thou hast bought such and such a slave-girl. Now I have long sought her for she is passing fair; and my heart is taken up with love of her, so do thou sell her to me." He replied, "I will not sell her, O Commander of the Faithful." Quoth he, "Then give her to me." Quoth the other, "Nor will I give her." Then Al-Rashid exclaimed, "Be Zubaydah triply divorced an thou shall not either sell or give her to me!" Then Ja'afar exclaimed, "Be my wife triply divorced an I either sell or give her to thee!" After awhile they recovered from their tipsiness and were aware of having fallen into a grave dilemma, but knew not by what device to extricate themselves. Then said Al-Rashid, "None can help us in this strait but Abú Yúsuf.” [FN#216] So they sent for him, and this was in the middle of the night; and when the messenger reached him, he arose in alarm, saying to himself, "I should not be sent for at this tide and time, save by reason of some question of moment to Al-Islam." So he went out in haste and mounted his she-mule, saying to his servant, "Take the mule's nose-bag with thee; it may be she hath not finished her feed; and when we come to the Caliph's palace, put the bag on her, that she may eat what is left of her fodder, during the last of the night." And the man replied, "I hear and obey." Now when the Imam was admitted to the presence, Al-Rashid rose to receive him and seated him on the couch beside himself (where he was wont to seat none save the Kazi), and said to him, "We have not sent for thee at this untimely time and tide save to advise us upon a grave matter, which is such and such and wherewith we know not how to deal." And he expounded to him the case. Abu Yusuf answered, "O Commander of the Faithful, this is the easiest of things." Then he turned to Ja'afar and said, "O Ja'afar, sell half of her to the Commander of the Faithful and give him the other half; so shall ye both be quit of your oaths." The Caliph was delighted with this and both did as he prescribed. Then said Al-Rashid, "Bring me the girl at once,"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Ninety-seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph Harun al-Rashid commanded, "Bring me the girl at once, for I long for her exceedingly." So they brought her and the Caliph said to Abu Yusuf, I have a mind to have her forthright, for I cannot bear to abstain from her during the prescribed period of purification; now how is this to be done?" Abu Yusuf replied, "Bring me one of thine own male slaves who hath never been manumitted." So they brought one and Abu Yusuf said, "Give me leave to marry her to him; then let him divorce her before consummation; and thus shall it be lawful for thee to lie with her before purification." This second expedient pleased the Caliph yet more than the first; he sent for the Mameluke and, whenas he came, said to the Kazi "I authorise thee to marry her to him." So the Imam proposed the marriage to the slave, who accepted it, and performed the ceremony; after which he said to the slave, "Divorce her, and thou shalt have an hundred dinars." But he replied, "I won't do this;" and the Imam went on to increase his offer, and the slave to refuse till he bid him a thousand dinars. Then the man asked him, "Doth it rest with me to divorce her, or with thee or with the Commander of the Faithful?" He answered, "It is in thy hand." "Then by Allah," quoth the slave, "I will never do it; no, never!" Hearing these words the Caliph was exceeding wroth and said to the Imam, "What is to be done, O Abu Yusuf?" Replied he, "Be not concerned, O Commander of the Faithful; the thing is easy. Make this slave the damsel's chattel." Quoth Al-Rashid, "I give him to her;" and the Imam said to the girl, "Say: I accept." So she said, I accept;" whereon quoth Abu Yusuf, "I pronounce separation from bed and board and divorce between them, for that he hath become her property, and so the marriage is annulled." With this, Al-Rashid rose to his feet and exclaimed, "It is the like of thee that shall be Kazi in my time." Then he called for sundry trays of gold and emptied them before Abu Yusuf, to whom he said, "Hast thou wherein to put this?" The Imam bethought him of the mule's nose-bag; so he sent for it and, filling it with gold, took it and went home. And on the morrow, he said to his friends, "There is no easier nor shorter road to the goods of this world and the next, than that of religious learning; for, see, I have gotten all this money by answering two or three questions." So consider thou, O polite reader, [FN#217] the pleasantness of this anecdote, for it compriseth divers goodly features, amongst which are the complaisance of Ja'afar to Al Rashid, and the wisdom of the Caliph who chose such a Kazi and the excellent learning of Abu Yusuf, may Almighty Allah have mercy on their souls one and all! And they also tell the