(And indeed we have
destroyed towns [populations] round about you.) (Qur’an 46: 27)
There is the tragic example
of the Barmak family, a family that lived a life of opulence, comfort, and
extravagance. Their end, however, has served as a lesson and example for all
Arabs who came after them. Haroon ar-Rasheed, the ruler during their period,
ordered an unexpected attack on the Barmak family and on their possessions.
Allah’s decree came to pass
over them in the morning at the hands of the closest person to them: he
destroyed their homes, took possession of their slaves, and shed their blood.
Their loved ones and children wept at their disgrace. There is none worthy of
worship except Allah; those who know the story should especially appreciate the
transitory nature of power and wealth in this world:
(Then take admonition, O’ you
with eyes [to see].) (Qur’an 59: 2)
Only one hour before their
downfall, they were strutting in silks, full of joy and complacency, feeling
secure from harm, unaware of the vicissitudes of life.
(‘And you dwelt in the
dwellings of men who wronged themselves, and it was clear to you how we had
dealt with them. And We put forth [many] parables for you.)
(Qur’an I4: 45)
They swaggered in their life
of play; however, sadly for them, they mistook the mirage for water and this
life for eternal existence.
They wrongly thought that
justice would not overtake them and that vindication would not come about for
(….and they thought that
they would never return to us.) (Quran 28: 39)
They woke up that morning in
a state of joy but by the time the night had fallen, they were in their graves.
In a moment of anger and caprice, Haroon ar-Rasheed unsheathed the sword of
wrath upon them, killing Ja’far ibn Yahya al-Barmaki, by hanging him on a cross
and then burning his body. He imprisoned his father Yahya and his brother
Al-Fadl. Their wealth was confiscated. Their plight was mourned over by many
Arab poets. One of them said:
"When I saw the sword
mixed in Ja’far,
And a caller announced the
news of Yahya to the Khaleefah, I mourned over this world and I came to truly
believe that in the near horizon is a day when a boy will depart from this world,
It is nothing but one country and ruler supplanted by another, The event of
misfortune follows the appointment of blessings. If this one dwells in the high
mansions of a king, then that one sinks to the lowest depths of misery."
But as for the present,
where is Haroon ar-Rasheed and where is the Barmak family? Where is the
murderer and where is the murdered? Where is the one who ordered the killing
while he was lying down on a bed in his castle? And where is the one who was crucified?
Yesterday and the actors of yesterday are both gone. But the Most Just will
judge between them on a Day about which there is no doubt, a Day wherein there
shall be neither wrongdoing nor injustice.
(‘The knowledge thereof is
with my Lord, in a Record. My Lord is neither unaware nor He forgets.)
(Qur’an 20: 52)
(The Day when [all] mankind
will stand before the Lord of the ‘Aalanieen [mankind, jinns and all that
exists].) (Qur’an 83: 6)
(That Day shall you be
brought to Judgment, not u secret of you will be
hidden) (Quran 69: 18)
Yahya ibn Khalid al-Barmaki
was asked concerning this calamity, "Do you know its cause?" He said,
"Perhaps it was the supplication of someone whom we wronged, a prayer that
traveled quickly through the night while we were unaware of it."
‘Abdullah ibn Mu’aawiyah ibn
‘Abdullah ibn J a`far said in jail about his imprisonment:
"We have departed from
the world and we are still of its inhabitants,
We are neither from the dead
nor from the living, If the jail guard comes in for one reason or another, We
are astonished and say: This one has come from the world, Overjoyed do we
become after seeing a dream, because most of our talk When we wake up is about
the dreams we saw, If it was a good one, ever so slowly it comes to pass, And
when it is bad, it waits not but comes with speed."
There is a good deal of
cynicism in the last two lines; after reading them, I am reminded of the words
"When the mailman
brings news to us, concerning some evil event he loses no time and makes haste,
Thus, when evil, it arrives after a day and a night, And when it is good, it
takes its time and arrives after a week."
A Persian king once imprisoned
a wise man, who wrote to him saying, "Every hour that I pass in here, I
come closer to ease and you to wrath. So I wait for better times. Meanwhile,
you are promised a bitter humiliation?
After reaching the summit of
opulence and extravagance, Ibn ‘Abbaad, the Sultan of Andalusia, faced a
crisis. At a time when frivolity and musical instruments and dancers became
prevalent in his castle, the Romans attacked him, and so he sought aid from the
Sultan of Morocco, Ibn Taashfeen. The latter crossed the ocean with his army
and brought with him victory. Ibn ‘Abbaad treated him as an honored guest,
allowing him to treat his castles and gardens as if they were his own. But Ibn
Taashfeen was observing the situation like a lion, and he had other plans.
After only three days, Ibn
Taashfeen and his army attacked the weakened kingdom of Andalusia. Ibn ‘Abbaad
was taken captive and his properties were seized. His castles and gardens were
destroyed and he was transported to his home province of Agmaat as a prisoner.
(And so are the days [good
and not so good], We give to men by turns.) (Qur’an 3: 140)
The dominion of Andalusia
fell into the hands of Ibn Taashfeen:
he claimed that the
leadership was rightfully his, since it was the people of Andalusia who had
summoned him from Morocco in the first place.
Much time passed, and then
one day the daughters of Ibn ‘Abbaad managed to visit him in prison. They came
barefoot, hungry, wan, and in tears. When he witnessed their pathetic situation,
he cried out:
"In past days I would
rejoice on special occasions, but what a miserable occasion is it in Agmaat as
a prisoner. You see your daughters emaciated and hungry, they stitch for people
and they own nothing. They come to see you fearful and weak, with sad eyes and
broken hearts, traveling on mud barefoot, As if those feet never trampled on
precious perfume and roses."
(So when Our Commandment came,
we turned [the towns of Sodom in Palestine] upside
down…) (Qur’an 11: 82)
(Verily the likeness of [this]
worldly life is as the water [rain] which We send down from the sky so by it
arises the intermingled produce of the earth of which men and cattle eat until
when the earth is clad with adornments and is beautified, and its people think
that they have all the powers of disposal over it, Our Command reaches it by
night or by day and We make it like a clean-mown harvest, as if it had not flourished
yesterday (Qur’an 10: 24)