Treachery Ensnares Some, But Is Defeated By Others

Every man who goes about his business must be attuned to the realities of his surroundings.  He should not close his eyes to what lies within his field of vision; and he must not delude himself by rationalizing the treacherous intentions of others.  The prudent man will not see plots and conspiracies everywhere, for this is the mentality of a craven fool; but he will still maintain a healthy alertness and awareness of his environment.  Such a policy might have saved the life of the camel in the tale that follows, as we will see.

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Ibn Qalaqis On The Importance Of Travel

The poet Nasrallah Ibn Abdallah Al-Qalaqis (نصر اللّه بن عبد اللّه القاضي الأعزّ ابن قلاقس) was born near Alexandria, Egypt in 1137.  He was a master of language and a composer of many exquisite verses, and was also an intrepid traveler.  The name by which he is generally known (Ibn Qalaqis) is derived from the Arabic word for colocasia, a plant cultivated in his day for its medicinal qualities.  His biographer tells us (with a twinkle in his eye) that “He had so little beard that his face was quite bare and, for that reason, verses were composed against him, which I abstain from mentioning on account of their indelicacy.”  One wishes that these lampoons might have been preserved, if only to see how little insults have changed over the centuries.

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The Pride Of Mihyar Al Daylami

The poet Mihyar Al Daylami (?–1037) came from that region of Persia which bordered the southern shores of the Caspian Sea.  He wrote in Arabic, and his works were so copious that his biographer says they filled four volumes.  He was originally a Zoroastrian, but converted to Islam around the year 1003 under the influence of one of his professors.

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The Man In The Well, And The Path Of Wisdom

In his allegorical work Kalila and Dimna, writer Ibn Muqaffa describes the journey to wisdom of one of his characters, a man named Barzouyeh.  Barzouyeh was the man sent by the king of Persia to India for the purpose of acquiring the precious text of Kalila and Dimna, which was reputed to contain a treasure-trove of worldly wisdom.  Ibn Muqaffa spends a good deal of time discussing Barzouyeh’s education and path to worldly wisdom; and it will be instructive for us to relate it here.

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The Eight Qualities Of The Man Of Understanding

One of the first and greatest classics of Arabic prose is the Book of Kalila and Dimna.  It is a collection of fables told with an allegorical purpose, but it is presented with such wisdom, poetic eloquence, and engaging humor as to make it one of the treasures of world literature.  Its pedigree verifies its merit.  The stories it contains were originally derived from a Sanskrit classic called the Panchatantra, but a Persian scholar and translator named Ibn Muqaffa’ (ابن المقفع‎‎), writing around 740 A.D., reworked the stories into something that was entirely original.

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On His Deathbed, Johnson Celebrates Youth’s Vitality And Spirit

It is right that youth should celebrate its vigor.  We do it a grave injustice by shackling its natural ebullience, by attempting to douse its fires with an excess of admonitions and restrictives.  Let it, as far as health and safety will permit, taste the light of the open sky, the airs of unexplored mountains, and the swift currents swirling along tropical beaches.  For in our elder years we will recall these liberating sensations with an intensity that sustains life itself.

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Ibn Fadlan’s Unique Travels In Central Asia And Rus

The name of Ibn Fadlan (أحمد بن فضلان بن العباس بن راشد) has received some notoriety in recent years, primarily due to fictionalized accounts of his travels in print and film.  Enthusiasts of travel literature who have taken the time to read his work will find, however, that his actual travels have little to do with these sensationalized tales.  His book is of great value to modern ethnographers; for it remains the only first-hand account we have of the customs and habits of Viking communities in Russia during the medieval period.

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