Daily Archives: Monday, 7 April, 2008

More 1001 Nights Footnotes

Here are a few odds and ends from Sir Richard Burton’s footnotes to Arabian Nights.

– Allah Aalam, a deprecatory formula, used because the writer is going to indulge in a series of what may possibly be untruths.

Here are a couple about the ages of man:

– Arab. “Shabb” (Lat juvenis) between puberty and forty or according to some fifty; when the patient becomes a “Rajul ikhtiyar” (man of free will) politely termed, and then a shaykh or shay bah (grey-beard, oldster).

– “Shaykh”= an old man (primarily) an elder, a chief (of the tribe, guild, etc.); and honorably addressed to any man. Like many in Arabic the word has a host of different meanings and most of them will occur in the course of The Nights. Ibrahim (Abraham) was the first shaykh or man who became grey. Seeing his hairs whiten he cried, “O Allah what is this?” and the answer came that it was a sign of dignified gravity. Hereupon he exclaimed, “O Lord increase this to me!” and so it happened till his locks waxed snowy white at the age of one hundred and fifty. He was the first who parted his hair, trimmed his mustachios, cleaned his teeth with the Miswak (tooth-stick), pared his nails, shaved his pect-en, snuffed up water, used ablution after stool and wore a shirt (Tabari).

Here’s one I always get a kick out of.

The formula used in refusing alms to an “asker” or in rejecting an insufficient offer: “Allah will open to thee!” (some door of gain–not mine)! Another favorite ejaculation is “Allah karim” = Allah is all-beneficent, meaning Ask Him, not me.

Which is the footnote to:

He was absent one whole year with the caravan; but one day as I sat in my shop, behold, a beggar stood before me asking alms, and I said to him, “Allah open thee another door!”

And this one is just to show that the concept of a man turning into an ape or monkey is not limited to Jews who have displeased God.

And on the instant I became an ape, a tail-less baboon…

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