Remedies, Detriments, And Moral Factors

The jurist, poet, and scholar Baha Al-Din Ibn Shaddad (بهاء الدين ابن شداد) was born in the city of Mosul, Iraq in 1145.  He was a close friend of the famed commander and statesman Saladin, and wrote a highly valued biography of that eminent conqueror.  He served for a time as the qadi (judge) of Aleppo, and in this capacity had much opportunity to acquaint himself to the realities of human behavior; it seems that, no matter the country or culture, career lawyers and judges make remarkably astute observers.  Ibn Shaddad’s biographer Ibn Khallikan says that the judge often liked to quote this line of verse from the poet Ibn Al-Fadl (known as Surr-Durr):

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The Wisdom Of Ibn Abd Al-Barr Of Spain

The Iberian peninsula’s uniqueness derives from the fact that its shores have been washed by successive cultural waves:  Roman, Gothic, Arab, and then indigenous Christian.  No other region of Europe has acted as a similar crossroad, or has stimulated a comparable fermentation.  Each of these civilizational tides altered the terrain as it flowed in, and then receded.  We now turn, once again, to the world of medieval Arabic scholarship, and attempt to pry open its chests of mysterious treasures.

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The Wisdom Of Ibn Al-Muzarra

The writer and scholar Yamut Ibn Al-Muzarra’ (يموت ابن المزرع) was a native of Basra, Iraq.  In the words of his biographer Ibn Khallikan, he was known as “an accomplished literary scholar, and well-versed in history.”  His name (Yamut) was a source of some consternation for him as a young man, for it is the third-person active form of the Arabic verb “to die” (مات).  He apparently never fulfilled his obligation of visiting the sick in hospitals, for fear that his name would bring misfortune upon patients confined to bed.  “The name,” he said, “which l received from my father has been a great annoyance to me.  So when I go to visit the sick and am asked my name, I answer, ‘The son of Al-Muzarra,’ and suppress my real name.”

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The Humor And Wisdom Of Ibn Sabir Al-Manjaniki

Ibn Sabir Al-Manjaniki’s full name was Abu Yusuf Ibn Sabir Ibn Hauthara Al-Manjaniki; we note it here for completeness, and will not repeat it again.  He was also known in some circles by the surname Najm Al-Din, which means “star of religion.”  He was born  in Baghdad in January 1159, and spent his early life there.  He is nearly unique in having achieved enduring fame in two completely separate disciplines:  military engineering and poetry.

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Accountability And Discipline Must Apply Equally To All

Yacub Ibn Al-Laith Al-Saffar (يعقوب بن الليث الصفار) lived from A.D. 840 to 879, and is credited as the founder of the Saffarid dynasty of Sistan.  Sistan is the geographic area now known as eastern Iran and southern Afghanistan; its capital was the city of Zaranj.  The word saffar in Arabic means “brass founder,” an artisan working in brass; but Yacub was said to be a coppersmith.  His biographer Ibn Khallikan credits Yacub with this wise saying:

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The Wisdom And Recklessness Of Ibn Al-Sikkit

The birthdate of the philologist and grammarian Yacub Ibn Al-Sikkit (ابو يوسف يعقوب ابن السكيت) is not known with certainty, but 800 A.D. is a reliable estimate.  His father enjoyed notoriety and prestige in court circles, and may have conferred on his son some access to the corridors of power.  The sobriquet “Al-Sikkit” was given to him because of his taciturnity, for the Arabic verb sakata (سكت) means “to be silent.”  However, as the reader will soon discover, he was evidently not silent enough.

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The Importance Of Thinking On One’s Feet: A Lucky Escape For Ibn Abi Muslim

We all know that the ability to think on one’s feet is an important skill.  There may even be times when this ability makes the difference between survival and execution.  The amusing anecdote that follows appears in Ibn Khallikan’s biographical sketch (IV.200) of a government official and administrator (مولى) named Yazid Ibn Abi Muslim, who served under an Umayyad governor of Iraq named Al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf (c. 661—714 A.D.).

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The Wise Sayings Of Ibn Zabada

Abu Talib Ibn Zabada was born in Baghdad in 1128 and lived his early life there, although his biographer Ibn Khallikan says his family was based in Wasit.  He is described as a poet, jurisprudent, and administrator of exceptional talent and wit; his letters were said to be singularly refined.   “His epistles,” says Ibn Khallikan, “are remarkable for the graces of their style, the elegance of their thoughts, the beauty of their ornaments and the delicacy of their allusions.  In drawing up dispatches, he paid more attention to the ideas than to the cadence; his letters are elegant, his thoughts just, his poetry good and his merits are so conspicuous that they need not be described.”

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The Wisdom And Generosity Of Yahya Ibn Khalid

Yahya Ibn Khalid (يحيى بن خالد‎) was an influential figure during the tenure of Abbasid caliph Harun Al-Rashid.  We do not know the precise date of his birth, but he was the son of Khalid Ibn Barmak, a member of the powerful Persian family known as the Barmakids.  The third Abbasid caliph, Al-Mahdi, tasked Yahya Ibn Khalid around 778 A.D. with the education of his son Harun.  Yahya must have perceived the seeds of greatness in the young Harun, for he tried to convince the fourth Abbasid caliph Al-Hadi to elevate Harun to a high position of leadership.  This was a mistake.  Al-Hadi had his own son in mind for the position, and so tossed Yahya into prison; but Fate would eventually smile on Yahya.

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The Life, Travels, And Literary Works Of Yakut Al-Hamawi

In some recent researches I have discovered one of the more interesting travelers and scholars of the medieval Islamic world.  I have been encouraged to review what sources are available; and the more we learn, the more impressive his story becomes.  His name is Yakut Al-Hamawi, and his career and achievements tell us much about the geographical and social mobility of the age in which he lived.  His career also confirms the truth of the adage that a man of ability will always find a way to rise to the top, regardless of the obstacles placed in his path.

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