Story 36: Hisham And Farazdaq

Although Hisham ibn Abdul Malik held the position of Crown Prince at the time (the first decade of the second century of Hijrah), when the Umayyad government had reached the zenith of its power, after the ritual circumambulation of the Ka’bah, he tried his best to reach the Black Stone and touch it. The other pilgrims were all dressed in their plain garments, all uttering the same supplications to Allah, and performing the Hajj rituals.

They were engrossed in the fulfillment of their rituals and did not think about the worldly personality of Hisham or his social position. The individuals, who accompanied him from Syria, to enhance his honour and prestige, appeared insignificant before the spiritual majesty and grandeur of the performance of the Hajj pilgrimage.

In accordance with the rites of pilgrimage, Hisham tried his best to reach the Black Stone and touch it, but he could not due to the sheer multitude and density of the crowd. He was obliged to return. He was given a chair to sit on, and the chair was placed in a high position so that he could watch over the crowd. The Syrians accompanying him, stood around him, and watched the crowd with him.

At this moment, a man appeared with a pious face. He was dressed in plain garments like the other pilgrims. The marks of worship and submission to Allah were visible on his face. He went directly to circumambulate the Ka’bah and made his way towards the Black Stone, firmly but gently. On seeing him, the crowd abated and made way for him, and he was able to approach the Black Stone without any difficulty.

Having witnessed earlier that the Crown Prince did not succeed in approaching the Black Stone in spite of his status, the Syrians were astonished, their eyes dazzled.

One of them asked Hisham, “Who is this person?”

Although Hisham knew perfectly well that he was Ali ibn al-Husayn Zain ul-Abidin (‘a), he pretended not to recognize him and said, “I do not know him.”

Fearing Hisham's blood-soaked sword, who would dare admit to knowing him?

Meanwhile, Hammam ibn Ghalib, a renowned and skilled Arabian poet (known as Farazdaq), who should have respected the position of Hisham more than anyone else, to protect his own career and particular art, was so struck by his conscience that he immediately said, “But I do know him!”

He did not settle for a plain introduction. Standing on a high step, he improvised an eloquent poem which is counted among the masterpieces of Arabic literature, for such words could only be composed when the spirit of a poet flows like the waves of the sea.

Among the verses of his poem were:

“This person is one whom the rocks of the earth know well,
as does the Haram of the Ka’bah and its surroundings,
The land of the Ka’bah and the land outside the Ka’bah knows him,
He is the son of the best servants of Allah,
the purest of the pure, the virtuous, the pious and the prominent,
That you say you do not know him, will cause him no harm
and there is no question of prejudice,
Supposing you do not know him yourself,
but what of the Arabs and non-Arab communities who all know him?”

Hisham, on hearing this candid poem, was filled with rage, and immediately ordered Farazdaq to be deprived of funds from the public treasury and to be imprisoned in Assfan (a place between Makkah and Madinah).

Farazdaq cared little about these orders. Due to his courage in expressing his convictions, he did not mind the loss of salary nor imprisonment. He did not stop criticizing and satirizing Hisham with his delightful poems, even when in prison.

Ali ibn al-Husayn (‘a) sent a sum of money to him in prison, as his revenue had been cut off, but Farazdaq refused it and said, “I recited that poem based on my faith and only for the sake of Allah, so I do not wish to receive any money in return.”

Ali ibn al-Husayn (‘a) sent the money a second time to Farazdaq, along with the following message, “Allah is aware of your intentions. May He reward you on the same terms as your intentions. If you accept this help, it will not detract your reward from Allah.”

Then he (‘a) made a pact with Farazdaq to accept this help and Farazdaq accepted it.1

  • 1. Bihar, v. 11, p. 36.