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 Great People of Color

9-th, 2004 - 09: 2   (Posted By: Webmaster)
Ibrahim Al-Mahdi

Ibrahim Al-Mahdi
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.

Ibn Khallika, 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 ability....
He was proclaimed Caliph at Bagdad . . . under the title of Al-Mubarak--the Blessed.

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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