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Story 118: Hisham And Tawus Yamani

In the era of his Caliphate, Hisham Ibn Abdul Malik, the Ummayad Caliph, arrived in Makkah for the pilgrimage. He ordered that one of those who had observed the time of the Holy Prophet (S) and had the honour of being in his company with his holiness be brought to him so that he would question him about those days. He was told that none of the Holy Prophet’s (S) Companions had remained alive and all had been deceased.

Hisham said: "Summon then one of the "Tabi’in"- disciples of the Companions - so that I could benefit from him."

Tawus Yamani was brought to him. On entering, Tawus took his shoes off before Hisham on the carpet, and when he saluted, instead of saying, according to the usage, "As-salamu alayk, O Commander of believers!" he contented to say "As-salamu alayk."

In other words, he did not call him by "O Commander of believers" and sat immediately before him, not waiting for his permission, while one should stand before the Caliph as usual till he personally authorized him to sit. Furthermore, in order to enquire about his health, he said: "Hisham! How are you?"

Hisham, inflamed with anger by his behaviour, said to him: "How dare you behave in my presence in such a manner?"

"What have I done?"

"What have you done?!!! Why did you take off your shoes in front of me? And why did you not address me under the title of "Commander of believers"? And why did you sit before obtaining my permission? And why did you enquire about my health in an insulting manner?"

"If I took off my shoes before you, it is because I am taking them off every day five times before the Almighty Allah, and He never gets angry with me. If I did not designate you as "Amir" (Commander of believers), it is because you are not really a Commander of all believers, there are many people of the belief who are not pleased with your authority and government. When I called you by your name it is also because Allah calls His Prophets by name, and addresses Himself to them in the Holy Qur'an by saying "O Dawud", "O Yahya" or "O Isa" without being interpreting this address as an insult to the position of the Prophets. On the contrary, Allah has mentioned Abu Lahab by his nickname not his name in the Qur'an. And if I sat before you without obtaining permission, it is because I heard the Commander of believers, 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib ('a) say: "If you want to see a man of the people of Fire, look at the one who is sitting while the people are standing before him.""

When Tawus said these words, Hisham asked Tawus to admonish him.

Tawus said: "I heard the Commander of believers, 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib ('a), say that there are snakes and scorpions in the Hell, extremely big, responsible to sting a Commander who does not behave justly among the people."

No sooner had Tawus completed these words than he came out quickly and went off.1

  • 1. Safinat ul Bihar, ch. Tawus, v. 2, p. 95.