9-th, 2004 - 09: 2 (Posted By: Webmaster)
ISLAM'S GREATEST SONGSTER AND CALIPH OF BAGDAD (c. A.D. 790)
WITH THE STORY of Ibrahim Al-Mahdi, we enter the enchanted atmosphere of the
Arabian Nights' Entertainments. Ibrahim was Islam's greatest singer of love
songs and its most bohemian spirit at the time these extraordinarily splendid
tales were being told. Fortune smiled on Ibrahim's birth. Paradise could scarcely
have possessed greater allurements for the most ardent Moslem than earth lavished
upon Ibrahim. In
fact, he was the next thing to a god himself. His father, Al-Mahdi, was caliph,
which in itself implied divinity. But most impressive of all, he belonged to
the father tree that had borne Mohammed, the Prophet. The latter's grandfather
was the brother of Ibrahim's great-great-grandfather. This relation to Mohammed,
though distant, sufficed to set Ibrahim and his kin above all others.
Arab historian (A.D. 1211-1282), says of Ibrahim:
This prince had great talent as a singer and an able hand musical instruments;
he was also an agreeable companion at parties pleasure. Being of dark complexion,
which he inherited from mother, Shikla, or Shakla-who was a Negro-he receive
the At-Thinnin (the Dragon). Ibrahim was a man of great merit and a perfect
scholar, with open heart and a generous hand; his like had never been seen
the sons of the Caliphs, none
of whom spoke with more propriety elegance, or composed verses with greater
He was proclaimed Caliph at Bagdad . . . under the title of Al-Mubarak--the
When Ibrahim was born, the Mohammedan Empire was the greatest on earth. It
stretched from India to Spain on the Atlantic and included most of the territory
on both shores of the Mediterranean. The wealth and the magnificence of its
rulers, the caliphs, were fabulous.
An example of this was Caliph Moktader's
reception of the Greek ambassador as described by Abdul Feda, Arab historian:
The Caliph's entire army, horse and foot, was under arms-160,000 men. His
state-officers and favorite slaves stood near him in glorious apparel, their
belts glittering with gold and gems. Nearby stood 7,000 eunuchs, 4,000 of whom
were white and 3,000 black. The porters, or doorkeepers, of the imperial palace
numbered 700. Barges and boats, extraordinarily magnificent in decoration,
floated on the Tigris. No less splendid was the palace. It was hung about with
38,000 pieces of tapestry, 12,000 whereof were silk, embroidered with gold.
Twenty-two thousand carpets
adorned the floors; a hundred lions were led forth, a keeper beside each.
Among other rarities was a tree of gold and silver spreading itself in eighteen
branches, whereon and upon the twigs of which sat birds wrought of the same
precious metal as were the leaves of the tree. When machinery was put in motion,
the birds warbled as though they were alive.
Add to this spectacle such details as halls of rarest marble and woodwork
of handsomest inlay; courts with gorgeous flowers and spraying fountains; secret
pavillions and perfumed retreats; harems with the most beautiful women of the
vast empire; throngs of noblemen, minstrels, poets, and scholars--and you have
a picture of an event that in its day was probably just average entertainment.
To indicate the lavishness of the times one need say no more than that Ibrahim's
brother, on his father's side, was the renowned Haroun AL-Raschid, whose name
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