Post-classical history

§ Saved from the Jaws of a Lion

At the Bridge Fortress was one of our comrades known as Ibn al-Ahmar from the Banu Kinana tribe.143 One day he rode his horse out from Bridge Fortress making for Kafartab on an errand of his and passed through Kafarnabudha144 just as a caravan was crossing the road. The people in the caravan saw a lion there.

Ibn al-Ahmar had a spear that shone in the sun, so the people in the caravan shouted to him, ‘You, with the flashing wood! Beware of that lion!’

His sense of honour at hearing their cries pushed him to attack the lion, but his horse shied away and he fell. The lion came and crouched on him. But, since God wished that he would be saved, the lion was already satiated and it merely mouthed his face and forehead. Having wounded his face, the lion then began to lick the blood, while he crouched on him without injuring him. Ibn al-Ahmar said:

I opened my eyes and I saw the maw of the lion. I dragged myself out from under him, lifting his thigh off me. I then slipped out, clung to a nearby tree and climbed up. The lion saw me and came after me, but I was well ahead of him and climbed the tree. So the lion then went to sleep underneath the tree, while a whole bunch of ants began clambering all over my wound (for ants seek out people wounded by lions just as mice seek out those wounded by leopards145). I then saw the lion sit up, pricking up its ears as if listening to something. Then it stood up and rushed off, for what should I see but a caravan, which had approached from the road; it was as if the lion had heard its sound.

The people of that caravan recognized Ibn al-Ahmar and transported him back to his home. The marks of that lion’s fangs on his forehead and cheeks were like a brand of fire. Glory be to the Deliverer!

§§ On Reason and Warfare

[85] A digression:146 We were chatting about warfare one day in the hearing of my tutor, the learned sheikh known as Ibn al-Munira147 (may God have mercy upon him).

So I said to him, ‘Say, master! If you would mount a charger, put on a kazaghand and helmet, belt on a sword, carry a spear and shield and position yourself at the Judge’s Mosque148 (a narrow place where the Franks – God curse them – used to pass by), not a single one of them would be able to get by you!’

‘Oh no,’ he replied. ‘By God, they’d all get by.’

I said, ‘But they’d be terrified of you, and they wouldn’t know who you were!’

‘Glory be to God!’ he replied. ‘Don’t I know myself?’ Then he said to yours truly, ‘A man of reason does not fight.’ So I said, ‘But master! Are you judging so-and-so and so-and-so (and I listed some of our comrades who were courageous horsemen) to be witless?’

‘That is not what I meant,’ he replied. ‘I merely meant that all reason is absent at the time of battle. If it were present, then men would not confront swords with their faces, nor spears and arrows with their chests. This is not the sort of thing that reason calls for.’

He was (may God have mercy upon him), however, more experienced with scholarship than he was with combat. For it is precisely reason that fills one with resolve in the face of swords, spears and arrows out of disdain towards being cast as a coward and smeared with bad reputation. The proof of that is that a man of courage, before going in to battle, will be stricken with shakes, he shivers and changes in colour due to all the dangers he thinks upon and talks to himself about, dangers stemming from what he plans to do and the risks he is about to encounter. A man’s soul will always shudder at such dangers and loathe them. But once that man of courage enters the fray of battle and wades among its throngs, all that shaking, shuddering and changing of colour disappears.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!