The Religion Of Islam vol.1

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  • The Religion Of Islam vol.1

  • Their Accomplishments

    The accomplishments the Arabs prided themselves on, were:-              (1) Eloquence and a perfect skill in their own tongue, (2) Expertness in the use of arms and horsemanship, and (3) Hospitality. The first they exercised themselves in by composing orations and poems. Their orations were of two sorts, metrical and prosaic, the one being compared to pearls strung, and the other to loose ones. They endeavoured to excel in both and whoever was able, in an assembly, to persuade the people to a great enterprise, or dissuade them from a dangerous one or gave them other wholesome advice, was honoured with the title of “Khateeb” or orator poetry was held in such great esteem among them that was a great accomplishment and a proof of ingenious extraction, to be able to express oneself in verse with ease and elegance, on any extraordinary occurrence and, even in their common discourse, they made frequent applications to celebrated passages of their famous poets. In their poems were preserved the historical events, the rights of tribes, the memory of great actions and the progress of their language, for which reason an excellent poet reflected so great an honour on his tribe that, as soon as anyone began to be admired for his performances of this kind in a tribe, the other tribes sent publicly to congratulate it on the occasion, and his own tribe made entertainments at which the women assisted, dressed in their nuptial ornaments, singing to the sound of tambourines the happiness of their tribe who had now one to protect their honour, to preserve their genealogies and the purity of their language, and to transmit their actions to posterity: for this was all performed by their poems. Thus they were solely indebted to their poems for knowledge and instructions, moral and economical, and to them they had recourse, as to an oracle, in all doubts and differences. No wonder, then, that a public congratulation was made on this account, which honour they yet were so far from making cheap that they never did it, except on one of these three occasions which were reckoned great points of felicity, to wit on the birth of a boy, the rise of a poet and the foal of a she-camel of a generous breed.

    To keep up emulation among their poets, the tribes had once a year a general assembly at Okaaz, a place famous on that account and where they held a weekly fair. This annual meeting lasted a whole month, during which time they employed themselves not only in trading, but also in repeating their poetical compositions, contending and vying with each other for the prize. The poems that were judged to excel, were kept in their king’s treasuries and hung on the Kaaba as were the seven celebrated poems called ‘Al–Moa‘allacat’.[1]

    As to the exercise of arms and horseman-ship the Arabs were in a manner obliged to practice and encourage this by reason of the independence of their tribes, whose frequent quarrels made wars almost continual; and they usually ended their disputes in pitched battle.[2]

    Hospitality was so habitual to the Arabs, and so much esteemed, that the examples of this virtue among them exceed whatever can be cited among other nations. Nor were the Arabs less addicted to liberality after the coming of their Prophet than their ancestors had been.[3] Many remarkable instances of this commendable quality among them can be quoted. Sale in his Preliminary discourse, affixed to his Translation of the Koran has contented himself with reproducing the following occurrence: Three men were disputing in the Court of the Kaaba, as to which was the most liberal person among the Arabs. One gave the preference to Abdallah, the son of Jaafar, the uncle of the Prophet Mohammed; another to Kais Ebn Obadah, and the third gave it to Arabah, of the tribe of Aws. After much debate, one that was present, to end the dispute, proposed that each of them should go to his friend and ask him for assistance that they might see what each one gave, and form a judgment accordingly. This was agreed to, and Abdallah’s champion, going to him, found him with his foot in the stirrup, just mounting his camel for a journey, and thus accosted him: “Son of the uncle of the Apostle of God, I am traveling and in necessity,” upon which Abdallah alighted and bade him take the camel, with all that was upon it, but desired him not to part with a sword which happened to be fixed to the saddle, because it had belonged to Ali, the son of Abu-Talib. So he took the camel and found on it some vests of silk and 4000 pieces of gold; but the thing of greatest value was the sword. The second went to Kais Ebn Saad. Whose servant told him, that his master was asleep, and desired to know his business. The friend answered that he came to ask kais’s assistance, being in want on the road. Whereupon, the servant said that he had rather supply his necessity than wake his master, and gave him a purse of 7000 pieces of gold, assuring him that it was all the money then in the house. He also directed him to go to those who had the charge of the camels with a certain token, a camel and a slave and return home with them. When Kais awoke and his servant informed him of what he had done, he gave him his freedom and asked him, why he did not call him? “For”, said he, “ I would have given him more. The third man went to Arabah and met him coming out of his house to go to prayers and leaning on two salves, because his eyesight failed him. The friend no sooner made known his case than Arabah let go the salves, and, clapping his hands together, loudly lamented his misfortune in having no money, but desired him to take the two slaves which the man refuse to do, till Arabah protested, that if he did not accept them, he would give them their freedom and, leaving the slaves, groped his way along by the wall. On the return of the disputants, judgment was unanimously, and with great justice given by all who where present, that Arabah was the most generous of the three.

    Nor were these the only good qualities of the Arabs. They are commended by ancient historians for being most exact to their world [4] and for being respectful to their senior, and they have always been celebrated for their quickness of apprehension and the vivacity of their wit, especially those the desert.[5]


    ([1]) Pocock.

    ([2]) Idem.

    ([3]) Sale. Prelim. Disc.

    ([4]) Herodotus.

    ([5]) D.Herberlot.

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