Post-classical history

§ Usama’s Father: A Great Warrior who Died in his Bed

My father (may God have mercy upon him) was very experienced at warfare. His body bore some dreadful wounds, but he died in his bed. One day he took part in a battle in full armour, wearing an Islamic-style helmet with a nasal. Someone – in those days most of their battles were with Arab tribesmen – hurled a javelin at him and the spear-head struck the nasal of the helmet. It dented the nasal and caused his nose to bleed, but it didn’t hurt him. But if God (glory be to Him) had decreed that the javelin should deviate from the nasal of the helmet, it would have killed him.

[52] On another occasion, he was struck in his lower leg by an arrow. He used to keep a dagger in his boot,55 and the arrow struck the dagger without wounding him. This was due to the superior protection of God (may He be exalted).

He (may God have mercy upon him) once saw battle on Sunday, 29 Shawwal in the year 497 (25 July 1104) with Ibn Mula’ib,56 the lord of Apamea, in the territory of Kafartab. He put on his cuirass but his servant in his haste forgot to fasten the buckles on one side of it. Someone hurled a javelin57 at him and it hit him right on the spot that the servant had left uncovered, above his left breast, and the spear stuck out just above his right breast. His survival was a wonder of the divine will, just as the wound itself was a wonder that God (glory be to Him) had decreed.

On the same day, my father (may God have mercy upon him) struck a horseman with his spear and, turning his horse away, curled his hand around the spear and pulled it out of his opponent. He told me, I felt something burning my forearm, but I thought it was just from the heat of the metal lamellae of my cuirass. But then the spear fell from my hand and, pulling my hand back, I discovered that a spear-thrust had hit me in the hand, which became weak since the blow had cut some of my nerves.’

I was with him (may God have mercy upon him) when Zayd, the surgeon, was treating his wound, with a servant standing behind his head.

My father said, ‘Zayd, take that pebble out of the wound.’

But the surgeon did not reply. So my father said again, ‘Zayd, don’t you see that pebble? Won’t you remove it from my wound?’

Now that he had annoyed him, Zayd replied, ‘What pebble? That’s a nerve-ending that has been severed.’ It really was as white as a pebble from the Euphrates.

On that same day he was also struck by another spear-thrust, but God kept him safe and sound until the day he died in his bed, may God [53] have mercy upon him, Monday 8 Ramadan of the year 531 (30 May 1137).

§§ Digression: Usama’s Father, the Pious Calligrapher

My father wrote in an elegant hand and that spear-thrust did not affect his calligraphic style. But he never copied anything except the Qur’an.

One day I asked him, ‘My lord, how many complete copies of the Qur’an have you written?’

‘Soon you will know,’ he replied.

When he was close to death, he said, ‘In that chest there are some copy-books, and in each one I have written a complete text of the Qur’an. Put them (meaning the copy-books) under my cheek in the grave.’ We counted the copy-books and there were forty-three of them.58

Among the complete Qur’ans that he copied there was one in a large format, written with gold ink. In it he included in black, red and blue ink the Qur’anic sciences – analysis of its variant readings, its obscure terms, its grammar and style, its abrogating and abrogated passages, its commentary, the causes for the revelation of its verses and its legal applications, calling it The Great Commentary.59 He produced another complete copy in gold letters without the commentary. The rest of the complete copies were done in black ink with the opening words of the tenth and fifth parts60 of the book, the verse-markers, chapter-headings and section-headings in gold.

My book does not require mention of this. I did so only to encourage my readers to pray for God’s mercy upon my father. Now, to return to the previous subject.

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