How Al Fadl Al-Barmaki Learned Bluntness And Generosity

Al Fadl Ibn Yahya al-Barmaki (A.D. 766—808) was a government official who served the most famous of all the Abbasid caliphs, the great but mercurial Harun al-Rashid.  Besides serving in several administrative posts (such as governor of Khurasan), he was also trusted enough to tutor Harun’s young son and heir al-Amin.  Although he later fell out of favor with the caliph, many stories are told of his generosity and kindness.

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Language Mastery As A Secret Code: How Sadid Al-Mulk Was Saved From Danger

Mastery of language is indeed a powerful tool.  This is especially true when the speakers hail from the same cultural background, and can make use of all those subtleties that would be lost on the non-native. This point is brilliantly illustrated by an anecdote told about Ali Ibn Munqidh, who became emir of the district of Shaizar in northern Syria in 1081.  His surname was Sadid al-Mulk, and this is how I will refer to him in this article.  We will see that words effectively deployed can literally save lives.  This story is adapted from Ibn Khallikan’s short biographical sketch of Sadid al-Mulk.

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Resources Can Come In Unexpected Ways: The Bounty Of Imad al-Dawla

Imad ad-Dawla Ibn Buwaih (A.D. 891-949) was the founder of the Buyid Dynasty in medieval Persia.  His name in Persian is given as Ali Ibn Buya, but he is more commonly known as Imad al-Dawla (“pillar of the state”).  Ibn Khallikan’s short sketch of his life contains the story related here; this story in turn is taken from the historian al-Mamuni.  It reminds us of the fact that, sometimes in life, a bit of good fortune can provide us with all we need.  The world, somehow, has its own way of providing for us; and if we persist long enough, some problems eventually solve themselves.

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Wise Sayings Of The Poet Al-Tihami

The Arabic poet Abu al-Hasan Ali Ibn Muhammad al-Tihami (? – 1025) is said to have taken the name Tihami in one of two possible ways that may hint at his family’s origins, according to our trusted chronicler Ibn Khallikan.  Tihami was used both as an informal name for the city of Mecca, and as a name for the mountains between the Hijaz and Yemen.  But it is not clear which of these geographic references apply to our poet.

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The Wisdom Of Mercy From Ibn Hazm Al-Zahiri

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We turn now to those founts of wisdom who have lessons to teach us.  Abu Muhammad Ali Ibn Ahmad Ibn Sa’id Ibn Hazm (أبو محمد علي بن احمد بن سعيد بن حزم) is known to history as Ibn Hazm Al-Zahiri.  Born in Cordoba, Andalusia (Spain) in 994, he achieved enduring fame for his incredible intellectual achievements in a number of disciplines, including jurisprudence, theology, philosophy, and poetry.  He even composed a manual on love known as The Ring of the Dove (طوق الحمامة).  Here was a man of substance, a man who could appreciate the virtues of the passions as well as those of the mind.

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A Fool Is Put In His Place

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The following anecdote is related in Ibn Khallikan’s short biographical profile of the philologist and rhetorician Al Said.  His full name was Abu al-Said Ibn al-Hasan Ibn Isa Al-Raba’i.  Verbal abilities are highly prized in cultures with rich literary traditions, and this tale bears testament to this fact.

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