THE CALIPH OMAR BIN AL-KHATTAB AND THE YOUNG BADAWI



The Sharif Husayn bin Rayyán relateth that the Caliph Omar bin Al-Khattáb was sitting one day judging the folk and doing justice between his subjects, attended by the best and wisest of his counsellors, when there came up to him a youth comely and cleanly attired, upon whom two very handsome youths had laid hold and were haling by the collar till they set him in the presence.  Whereupon the Commander of the Faithful, Omar, looked at him and them and bade them loose him; then, calling him near to himself, asked the twain, “What is your case with him?”  They answered, “O Prince of True Believers, we are two brothers by one mother and as followers of verity known are we.  We had a father, a very old man of good counsel, honoured by the tribes, sound of baseness renowned for goodliness, who reared us tenderly in childhood, and loaded us with favours in manhood;” -- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Ninety-sixth Night

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the two youths said to the Commander of the Faithful, Omar son of Al-Khattab, “Our father was a man honoured by the tribes, sound of baseness and renowned for goodliness, who reared us delicately in childhood and loaded us with favours in manhood; in fine, a sea of noble and illustrious qualities, worthy of the poet’s praise,

    ‘Is Aub’s-Sakr of Shaybán [FN#144]?’ they asked; *
         Quoth I, ‘Nay, by my life, of him’s Shaybán:
    How many a sire rose high by a noble son, *
         As Allah’s prophet glorified Adnan!’ [FN#145]

Now he went forth this day to his garden, to refresh himself amongst its trees and pluck the ripe fruits, when this young man slew him wrongously and swerved from the road of righteousness; wherefore we demand of thee the retribution of his crime and call upon thee to pass judgement upon him, according to the commandment of Allah.”  Then Omar cast a terrible look at the accused youth and said to him, “Verily thou hearest the complaint these two young men prefer; what hast thou in reply to aver?”  But he was brave of heart and bold of speech, having doffed the robe of pusillanimity and put off the garb of cowardry; so he smiled and spake in the most eloquent and elegant words; and, after paying the usual ceremonial compliments to the Caliph, said, "“By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I have indeed given ear to their complaint, and they have told the truth in that which they tell, so far as they have set out what befel; and the commandment of Allah is a decreed decree. [FN#146]  but I will forthright state my case between they hands, and it is for thee to give commands.  Know then, O Prince of the Faithful, that I am a very Arab of the Arabies, [FN#147] the noblest of those that are beneath the skies.  I grew up in the dwellings of the wold and fell, till evil times my tribe befel, when I came to the outskirts of this town, with my family and whatso goods I own: and, as I went along one of the paths leading to its gardens, orchards and garths, with my she-camels highly esteemed and by me most precious deemed, and midst them a stallion of noble blood and shape right good, a plenteous getter of brood, by whom the females abundantly bore and who walked among them as though a kingly crown he wore, one of the she-camels broke away; and, running to the garden of these young men’s father, where the trees showed above the wall, put forth her lips and began to feed as in stall.  I ran to her, to drive her away, when behold, there appeared, at a breach of the wall, an old man and grey, whose eyes sparkled with angry ray, holding in his right a stone to throw and swaying to and fro, with a swing like a lion ready for a spring.  He cast the stone at my stallion, and it killed him for it struck a vital part.  When I saw the stallion drop dead beside me, I felt live coals of anger kindled in my heart; so I took up the very same stone and throwing it at the old man, it was the cause of his bane and ban: thus his own wrongful act returned to him anew, and the man was slain of that wherewith he slew.  When the stone struck him, he cried out with a great cry and shrieked out a terrible shriek, whereupon I hastened from the spot; but these two young men hurried after me and laid hands on me and before thee carried me.”  Quoth Omar (Almighty Allah accept of him!), “Thou hast confessed what thou committedest, and of acquittal there is no possible occasion; for urgent is the law of retaliation and they cried for mercy but it was not a time to escape.” [FN#148]  the youth answered, “I hear and obey the judgement of the Imam, and I consent to all required by the law of Al-Islam; but I have a young brother, whose old father, before his decease, appointed to him wealth in great store and gold galore, and committed his affair to me before Allah, saying: ‘I give this into thy hand for thy brother; keep it for him with all thy might.’  So I took the money and buried it; nor doth any know of it but I.  Now, if thou adjudge me to be justiced forthright, the money will lost and thou shalt be the cause of its loss; wherefore the child will sue thee for his due on the day when the Creator shall judge between His creatures.  But, if thou wilt grant me three days’ delay, I will appoint some guardian to administer the affairs of the boy and return to answer my debt; and I have one who will be my surety for the fulfillment of this my promise.”  So the Commander of the Faithful bowed his head awhile, then raised it and looking round upon those present, said, “Who will stand surety by me for his return to this place?”  And the youth looked at the faces of those who were in company and pointing to Abu Zarr, [FN#149] in preference to all present, said, “This man shall answer for me and be my bail.” -- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

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

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the youth pointed to Abu Zarr and said, “This man shall answer for me and be my bail,” Omar (Allah accept of him!) said, O Abu Zarr, dost thou hear these words and wilt thou be surety to me for the return of this youth?”  He answered, “Yes, O Commander of the Faithful, I will be surety for him for three days.”  So the Caliph accepted his guarantee and let the young man go.  Now when the appointed time passed and the days of grace were nearly or quite at end yet the youth came not, the Caliph took seat in his council, with the Companions surrounding him, like the constellations about the moon, Abu Zarr and the plaintiffs being also present; and the avengers said, “Where is the defendant, O Abu Zarr, and how shall he return, having once fled?   But we will not stir from our places till thou bring him to us, that we may take of him our blood revenge.”  Replied Abu Zarr, “By the truth of the All-Wise King, if the three days of grace expire and the young man returneth not, I will fulfill my warranty and surrender my person to the Imam;” and added Omar (whom Allah accept!), “By the Lord, if the young man appear not, I will assuredly execute on Abu Zarr that which is prescribed by the law of Al-Islam!” [FN#150]  thereupon the eyes of the bystanders ran over with tears; those who looked on groaned aloud and great was the clamour.  Then the chiefs of the Companions urged the plaintiffs to accept the blood-wit and deserve the thanks of the folk; but they both refused and would accept nothing save the talion.  However, as the folk were swaying to and fro like waves and loudly bemoaning Abu Zarr, behold, up came the young Badawi; and, standing before the Imam, saluted him right courteously (with sweat-beaded face and shining with the crescent’s grace) and said to him, “I have given the lad in charge to his mother’s brothers and have made them acquainted with all that pertaineth to his affairs and let them into the secrets of his monies; after which I braved the heats of noon and have kept my word as a free-born man.”  Thereupon the folk marvelled, seeing his good faith and loyalty and his offering himself to death with so stout a heart; and one said to him, “How noble a youth art thou and how loyal to thy word of honour and thy devoir!”  Rejoined he, “Are ye not convinced that when death presenteth itself, none can escape from it?  And indeed, I have kept my word, that it be not said, ‘Good faith is gone from among mankind.’ “ Said Abu Zarr, “By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I became warrant for this young man, without knowing to what tribe he belonged, nor had I seen him before that day; but, when he turned away from all who were present and singled me out, saying, ‘This man shall answer for me and be my bail,’ I thought it not right to refuse him, and generosity forbade to disappoint his desire, there being no harm in compliance therewith, that it be not bruited abroad, Benevolence is gone from among mankind.”  Then said the two young men, “O Commander of the Faithful, we forgive this youth our father’s blood, seeing that he hath changed desolation into cheerfulness; that it be not said, Humanity is gone from among mankind.”  So the Caliph rejoiced in the acquittance of the youth and his truth and good faith; moreover, he magnified the generosity of Abu Zarr, extolling it over all his companions, and approved the resolve of the two young men for its benevolence, giving them praise with thanks and applying to their case the saying of the poet,

    “Who doth kindness to men shall be paid again; *
         Ne’er is kindness lost betwixt God and men.”

Then he offered to pay them, from the Treasury, the blood-wit for their father; but they refused, saying, “We forgave him only of our desire unto Allah, [FN#151] the Bountiful, the Exalted; and he who is thus intentioned followeth not his benefits with reproach or with mischief.” [FN#152]  and amongst the tales they relate is that of




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