On the Essence of the Secretarial Function and the Nature of the Perfect Scribe.

The Secretarial Function is an art comprising reasoned modes of address and communication, and teaching the forms of address employed amongst men in correspondence, consultation, contention, eulogy, condemnation, diplomacy, provocation, and conciliation, as well as in magnifying matters or minimizing them; contriving means of excuse or censure; imposing covenants; recording antecedents; and displaying, in every case, orderly arrangement, so that all may be enunciated primarily and finally.*

Hence the Secretary must be of gentle birth, of refined honour, of penetrating discernment, of profound reflection, and of firm judgement; and the amplest portion and fullest share of the methods and attainments of this art must be his. Neither must he be remote from, or unacquainted with, logical judgements; and he must know the ranks of his contemporaries, and be familiar with the dignities of the leading men of his time. Moreover, he should not be absorbed in the wealth and perishable goods of this world; nor concern himself with the approval or condemnation of prejudiced persons and tattlers, or pay any heed to them; and he should, when exercising his secretarial functions, guard the honour of his master from degrading situations and dangerous practices. And in the course of his letter, while pursuing his duties of correspondence, he should not quarrel with eminent and powerful personages; and, even though enmity subsist between his master and the person whom he is addressing, he should restrain his pen, and not attack him, save in the case of one who may have overstepped his own proper limit, or advanced his foot beyond the circle of respect, for they say: “One for one,*

and he who begins is most in the wrong.”

And in his forms of address he should observe moderation, writing to each person that which befits his position, where­unto his kingdom, domain, army, and treasure are a guide; save in the case of one who may himself have fallen short in this matter, or made display of undue pride, or neglected some point of courtesy, or manifested an arrogance which reason cannot regard otherwise than as misplaced in such correspondence, and unsuitable in epistolary communications. In such cases it is permitted and allowed to the Scribe to take up his pen, set his best foot forward, and in this pass go to the extreme limit and utmost bound, for they say: “Haughtiness towards the haughty is a good work.”*

But in no case must he suffer any dust from the atmosphere of conflict in this arena of correspondence to alight on the skirt of his master's honour; and in the setting forth of his message he must adopt that method which the orators of the Arabs have thus described: “The best speech is that which is brief and significant, and not wearisome.”*

For if the ideas accord not with the words, the discussion will be protracted, and the Scribe will be stigmatized as prolix, and “He who is prolix is a babbler.”*

Now the words of the Scribe will not attain to this elevation until he becomes familiar with every science, obtains some hint from every master, hears some aphorism from every philosopher, and borrows some elegance from every man of letters. Therefore he must accustom himself to peruse the Scripture of the Lord of Glory, the Traditions of Muḥammad the Chosen One (on whom, and on whose family, be God's blessing and peace), the Memoirs of the Companions, the proverbial sayings of the Arabs, and the wise words of the Persians; and to read the books of the ancients, and to study the writings of their successors, such as the Correspondence of the Ṣáḥib Isma'íl ibn 'Abbád*

and Ṣábí; the Qábús-náma*;

the compositions of Ḥamádí, Laqání, and Ibn Qudáma*;

the Gests of Badí'u'z-Zamán al-Hamadání,*


and al-Ḥamídí*;

the Rescripts of al-Bal'amí,*


and Abú Naṣr Kundurí*;

the Letters of Muḥammad 'Abd, 'Abdu'l-Ḥamíd, and the Sayyidu'r-Ru'asá; the Séances of Muḥammad-i-Manṣúr,*

Ibn 'Abbádí,*

and Ibnu'n-Nassába, the descendant of 'Alí; and, of the poetical works of the Arabs, the Díwáns of Mutanabbí,*


and Ghazzí*;

and, amongst the Persian poets, the poems of Ḥakím Rúdagí,*

the Epic of Firdawsí,*

and the panegyrics of 'Unṣurí*;

since each one of these works which we have enumerated was, after its kind, the incomparable and unique product of its time; and every scribe who hath these books, and stimulates his mind, polishes his wit, and enkindles his fancy by their perusal, will ever raise the level of his diction, whereby a scribe becomes famous.

Now if he be well acquainted with the Qur'án, with one verse therefrom he may discharge his obligation to a whole realm, as did Iskáfí.*