THE PIOUS BLACK SLAVE.



"We were once afflicted with drought at Bassorah and went forth sundry times to pray for rain, but saw no sign of our prayers being accepted. So I went, I and 'Itaa al-Salamí and Sábit al-Banáni and Naja al-Bakáa and Mohammed bin Wási'a and Ayyúb al-Sukhtiyáni and Habíb al-Farsi and Hassán bin Abi Sinán and 'Otbah al-Ghulám and Sálih al-Muzani, [FN#468] till we reached the oratory, [FN#469] when the boys came out of the schools and we prayed for rain, but saw no sign of acceptance. So about mid-day the people went away and I and Sabit al-Banani tarried in the place of prayer till nightfall, when we saw a black of comely face, slender of shank [FN#470] and big of belly, approach us, clad in a pair of woollen drawers; if all he wore had been priced, it would not have fetched a couple of dirhams. He brought water and made the minor ablution, then, going up to the prayer-niche, prayed two inclinations deftly, his standing and bowing and prostration being exactly similar in both. Then he raised his glance heavenwards, and said, 'O my God and my Lord and Master, how long wilt Thou reject Thy servants in that which offereth no hurt to Thy sovereignty? Is that which is with Thee wasted or are the treasuries of Thy Kingdom annihilated? I conjure Thee, by Thy love to me forthwith to pour out upon us Thy rain-clouds of grace!' He spake and hardly had he made an end of speaking, when the heavens clouded over and there came a rain, as if the mouths of waterskins had been opened; and when we left the oratory, we were knee-deep in water,"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Sixty-eighth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that "hardly had he spoken when the heavens clouded over and there came a rain, as if the mouths of waterskins had been opened. And when we left the oratory we were knee-deep in water, and we were lost in wonder at the black. So I accosted him and said to him, 'Woe to thee, O black, art thou not ashamed of what thou saidst?' He turned to me and asked, 'What said I?'; and I, 'Thy saying to Allah, 'By Thy love of me;' and what giveth thee to know that He loveth thee?' Replied he, 'Away from me, O thou distracted by the world from the care of thine own soul. Where was I, when He gave me strength to profess the unity of the Godhead and vouchsafed unto me the knowledge of Him? How deemest thou that He aided me thus except of His love to me?' adding, 'Verily, His love to me is after the measure of my love to Him.' Quoth I, 'Tarry awhile with me, so may Allah have mercy on thee!' But he said, 'I am a chattel and the Book enjoineth me to obey my lesser master.' So we followed him afar off, till we saw him enter the house of a slave-broker. Now the first half of the night was past and the last half was longsome upon us, so we went away; but next morning, we repaired to the slave-dealer and said to him, 'Hast thou a lad to sell us for service?' He answered, 'Yes, I have an hundred lads or so and they are all for sale.' Then he showed us slave after slave; till he had shown us some seventy; but my friend was not amongst them, and the dealer said, 'These are all I have.' But, as we were going out from him we saw a ruinous hut behind his house and going in behold, we found the black standing there. I cried, ''Tis he, by the Lord of the Ka'abah!' and turning to the dealer, said to him, 'Sell me yonder slave.' Replied he, 'O Abu Yahya, this is a pestilent unprofitable fellow, who hath no concern by night but weeping and by day but repentance.' I rejoined, 'It is for that I want him.' So the dealer called him, and he came out, showing drowsiness. Quoth his master, 'Take him at thine own price, so thou hold me free of all his faults.' I bought him for twenty dinars and asked 'What is his name?' and the dealer answered 'Maymun, the monkey;' and I took him by the hand and went out with him, intending to go home; but he turned to me and said, 'O my lesser lord, why and wherefore didst thou buy me? By Allah, I am not fit for the service of God's creatures!' Replied I, 'I bought thee that I might serve thee myself; and on my head be it.' Asked he, 'Why so?' and I answered, 'Wast thou not in company with us yesterday in the place of prayer?' Quoth he, 'And didst thou hear me?'; and quoth I, 'It was I accosted thee yesterday and spoke with thee.' Thereupon he advanced till we came to a mosque, where he entered and prayed a two-bow prayer; after which he said, 'O my God and my Lord and Master, the secret that was between me and Thee Thou hast discovered unto Thy creatures and hast brought me to shame before the worldling. How then shall life be sweet to me, now that other than Thou hath happened upon that which is between Thee and me? I conjure Thee to take my soul to Thee forthright. [FN#471] So saying, he prostrated himself, and I awaited awhile without seeing him raise his head; so I shook him and behold, he was indeed dead, the mercy of Almighty Allah be upon him! I laid him out stretching his arms and legs and looked at him, and lo! he was smiling. Moreover, whiteness had got the better of blackness on his brow, and his face was radiant with light like a young moon. As we wondered at his case, the door opened and a young man came in to us and said, 'Peace be with you! May Allah make great our reward and yours for our brother Maymun! Here is his shroud: wrap him in it.' So saying, he gave us two robes, never had we seen the like of them, and we shrouded him therein. And now his tomb is a place whither men resort to pray for rain and ask their requirements of Allah (be He extolled and exalted!); and how excellently well saith the poet on this theme,

'The heart of Gnostic [FN#472] homed in heavenly Garth *
         Heaven decks, and Allah's porters aid afford.
Lo! here they drink old wine commingled with *
         Tasním, [FN#473] the wine of union with the Lord.
Safe is the secret 'twixt the Friend and them; *
         Safe from all hearts but from that Heart adored.'"

And they recount another anecdote of




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