Section I, ch. I.

This section opens with a short biography (ff. 5b—6b) of Ibnu`l-Muqaffa'. His proper name, says the author, was 'Abdu`lláh, and his father Dádawayh (Dádú'ê) was a Magian by religion, and one of the fiscal agents of the Arab govern­ment in Fárs. Being accused of embezzlement, he was tortured so that his skin was shrivelled and contracted (taqaffa'at), for which reason he received the sobriquet of al-Muqaffa', “the Shrivelled”. His son 'Abdu`lláh, better known as Ibnu`l-Muqaffa', was converted to Islám by 'Alí b. 'Isá (f. 6a), the primary cause of his conversion being the impression pro­duced on him by the seventh and following verses of Súra LXXVIII of the Qur`án, which he heard a child reciting aloud. He was on terms of intimate friendship with Khalíl b. Aḥmad al-Furhúdí*. A certain man of learning was asked his opinion concerning them. He replied, “Khalíl’s understanding exceeds his learning, while Ibnu`l-Muqaffa'’s learning exceeds his understanding”. One day Ibnu`l-Muqaffa', while passing by a fire-temple, recited this verse:


When this was reported to the Caliph he said, “He is not yet a good Muslim,” and ordered him to be cast alive into an oven. It is related by al-Jáḥidh* in his Kitábu `l-Bayán wa`t-Tabyín that when Ibnu`l-Muqaffa' was handed over to the tormentor (<Arabic>), he said to him, “Thou hast money and wealth; if thou wilt pay into the Exchequer the sum demanded from me, I will return you double or treble the amount, and will never divulge the matter, for thou knowest me faithful in the guarding of secrets.” The tormentor, moved by coveteousness, paid the money and saved him from death and torture. It is also related [apparently by al-Jáḥidh] that a certain Háshim, gaoler to Yùsuf 'Umar [ath-Thaqaff], used to keep a register of all the prisoners who had died in prison, and submit it to Yúsuf. 'Abdu`lláh b. Abí Burda [b.] Abí Músá al-Ash'arí, being in prison, offered this man a thousand dirhams to include his name in this list (f. 6b), and so effect his release. This was done, but the Amír, on receiving the report, said, “Bring his corpse before me.” So the gaoler, being afraid, went back to the prison and smothered him with a cushion, so that his device cost him both his money and his life*.

[Here follows the translation of Ibnu`l-Muqaffa'’s version of Tansar’s letter to Jasnasf, the king of Ṭabaristán. As this portion of the work has been published and translated, with excellent notes and comments, by the late Professor James Darmesteter (Journal Asiatique for 1894, series IX, vol. iii, pp. 185—250 and 502—555), it is omitted in this abstract. That this document rests on an authentic basis seems to be beyond doubt. See Darmesteter, loc. cit., pp. 185—192.]

(F. 20b). The kingdom of Ṭabaristán remained in the hands of Jasnasf’s descendants until the time of Pírúz († A. D. 484), but when the Turks invaded Khurásán and the confines of Ṭabaristán in the reign of his son Qubád (Kawádh, A. D. 488—531), it was decided in Council that Kayús (<Arabic>)*, the King’s eldest son, should be appointed ruler of that province. So matters remained till the glorious reign of Núshírwán, concerning whom Jábir b. 'Abdi`lláh al-Anṣárí questioned the Prophet of God, saying, “How hath God dealt with Kisrá and Caesar?” The Prophet answered, “I asked my brother Gabriel this same question, and he said, ‘I was desirous to ask God concerning this matter, when behold, a voice came from God’s Throne, saying, “I would not torment in hell-fire kings who made my lands flourishing and my servants prosperous.”’” The Umayyad Caliphs (f. 21a), on the other hand, though they professed Islám, are universally condemned for their tyranny and injustice.

One of the early Persian converts to Islám, in answer to the enquiries of the Prophet’s companions as to which was the greatest and best of their kings, named Ardashír Bába­kán, in proof of whose wisdom and clemency he related the following anecdote. Once, in a year of drought, the people petitioned him for help. Thereupon he issued this procla­mation: “When rain is scarce, the rain-clouds of the King are generous; therefore distribute amongst them what they have lost.” Núshírwán (A. D. 531—578) imitated him in maintaining good practices and suppressing evil innovations, and was especially opposed to the promotion of persons of mean origin to positions of trust, as is shewn by the fol­lowing anecdote*.