Post-classical history

§ Tales of Bravery: Usama’s Uncle and Father

My father and my uncle (may God have mercy upon them) were two of the most courageous men of their kin. I was with them one day when the two of them had gone out hunting with goshawks in the direction of Tall Milh68 (for there are abundant waterfowl there). Suddenly, before we realized it, the army of Tripoli made an attack on the town and arrayed themselves against it. So we went back, though my father was recovering from an illness at the time. As for my uncle, he sped off with those soldiers that were with him and went to cross the ford in the direction of the Franks, who watched him all the while. As for my father, he also went on, while I, just a youth,69 went with him. As his horse trotted beneath him, he would suck from a quince that he held in his hand.

As we approached the Franks, he said to me, ‘You go ahead and get inside by way of the dyke.’70 But he crossed the river from the area where the Franks were.

[56] I observed his courage another time, when the horsemen of Mahmud ibn Qaraja made an attack on us while we were some distance from the town. The horsemen of Mahmud were closer to the town than we were. But I had already seen battle and experienced warfare, so I put on my kazaghand-armour, mounted my horse and took hold of my spear, but my father (may God have mercy upon him) rode upon a mule.

So I said to him, ‘My lord, shouldn’t you ride your horse?’

‘Oh, no doubt,’ he replied.

But he continued on just as he was, unflappable and unhurried, while I, because of my fear for him, insisted that he ride his horse. He continued on his mule until we arrived back at the town.

When the enemy went back and everything was safe and secure, I said, ‘My lord, you saw that the enemy had stopped between us and our town, and you refused to ride even one of the spare horses. I pleaded with you to ride, but you didn’t even listen!’

‘Son,’ he replied, ‘it is written in my horoscope that I shall feel no fear.’ For he was (may God have mercy upon him) quite a devotee of the stars, even with all his pious scrupulosity, religious conviction, daily fasting and reciting of the Qur’an. He used to push me to learn about astrology, but I was unwilling and would refuse. So he then urged me, ‘At least learn the names of the stars, the ones that rise and set.’71 And so it was that he would show me the stars and teach me their names.

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