by NSW Maritime
Hasan A. Yahya, a writer from Palestine
Involvement in politics from literary legends in the Arabic history of literature, is an interesting one. In this article, a story of a legend paid his life for a message he wrote. Ibn Al Mukaffa, the translator of the book “Kalilah and Dimnah” from Pehlevi into Arabic, was one of the most learned men during the reign of Al Mansur, but suspected of Zendikism, or free-thinking. Al Mansur is reported to have said: “I never found a book on Zendikism which did not owe its origin to Ibn Al Mukaffa.” The latter used to be a thorn in the side of Sofyan, the governor of Basra. As Sofyan had a large nose, Ibn Al Mukaffa used to say to him when he visited him: “How are you both?” meaning him and his nose. Sofyan once said: “I had never reason to repent keeping silence.” And Ibn Al Mukaffa replied: “Dumbness becomes you; why should you repent of it?” These gibes rankled in Sofyan’s mind, and ere long he had an opportunity of glutting his vengeance on Ibn Al Mukaffa.
Abdallah, the uncle of Al Mansur, had revolted against his nephew, and aspired to the Caliphate; but being defeated by Abu Muslim, who had been sent against him at the head of an army, he took to flight, and dreading the vengeance of Al Mansur, lay concealed at the house of his brothers, Sulaiman and Isa. These two then interceded for him with the Caliph, who consented to forgive what had passed; and it was decided that a letter of pardon should be granted by Al Mansur.
On coming to Basra the two brothers told Ibn Al Mukaffa, who was secretary to Isa, to draw up the letter of pardon, and to word it in the strongest terms, so as to leave no pretext to Al Mansur for making an attempt against Abdallah’s life. Ibn Al Mukaffa obeyed their directions, and drew up the letter in the most binding terms, inserting in it, among others, the following clause: “And if at any time the Commander of the Faithful act perfidiously toward his uncle, Abdallah Ibn ali, his wives shall be divorced from him, his horses shall be confiscated for the service of God in war, his slaves shall become free, and the Moslems loosed from their allegiance to him.” The other conditions of the deed were expressed in a manner equally strict. Al Mansur, having read the paper, was highly displeased, and asked who wrote it. On being informed that it was Ibn Al Mukaffa, his brother’s secretary, he sent a letter to Sofyan, the governor of Basra, ordering him to put Ibn Al Mukaffa to death. Sofyan was already filled with rancor against Ibn Al Mukaffa, for the reasons mentioned above. He summoned him, and, when he appeared, reminded him of his gibes. “Emir!” exclaimed Ibn Al Mukaffa, “I implore you in the name of God to spare my life.” “May my mother be disgraced,” replied Sofyan, “if I do not kill thee in a manner such as none was ever killed in before.” On this he ordered an oven to be heated, and the limbs of Ibn Al Mukaffa to be cut off, joint by joint; these he cast into the oven before his eyes, and he then threw him in bodily, and closed the oven on him, saying; “It is not a crime in me to punish you thus, for you are a Zindik (free-thinker) who corrupted the people.”
Salaiman and Isa, having made inquiries about their secretary, were informed that he had gone into the palace of Sofyan in good health and that he had not come out. They therefore cited Sofyan before Al Mansur, and brought him with them in chains. Witnesses were produced, who declared that they saw Ibn Al Mukaffa enter Sofyan’s palace, and that he never came out after, and Al Mansur promised to examine into the matter. He then said to them: “Suppose that I put Sofyan to death in retaliation for the death of Ibn Al Mukaffa, and that Ibn Al Mulkaffa himself then came forth from that door” (pointing to one which was behind him) “and spoke to you—what should I do to you in that case? I should put you to death in retaliation for the death of Sofyan.” On this the witnesses retraced their evidence, and Isa and Sulaiman ceased to speak of their secretary, knowing that he had been killed by order of Al Mansur, who, disregarding his promise, cast Abdallah Ibn ali into prison. (777 words) www.askdryahya.com
– Charles F. Horne, ed., The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VI: Medieval Arabia, pp. 35-89. Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.
– Paul Halsall, September 1998 firstname.lastname@example.org
– Internet Medieval Source Book
Professor, Dr. Hasan A. Yahya is an Arab American writer, scholar, and professor of Sociology lives in the United States of America, originally from Palestine. He graduated from Michigan State University with 2 Ph.d degrees. He published 58 books plus (43 Arabic and 15 English), and 280 plus articles on sociology, religion, psychology, politics, poetry, and short stories. Philosophically, his writings concern logic, justice and human rights worldwide. Dr. Yahya is the author of Crescentologism: The Moon Theory, and Islam Finds its Way, on Amazon. He’s an expert on Race Relations, Arab and Islamic cultures, he is also, interested in religion, world affairs and global strategic planning for justice and human rights. www.dryahyatv.com
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