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Damrah ibn Damrah Meets the King, Al-Nuʿmān ibn Mundhir


What makes a real man? How is the worth of a man measured? Is it by his appearance or his wealth? Is it by his strength or his bravery? 

It is said that a man from Banu Tamim, named Dhamrah ibn Dhamrah, would constantly raid the outskirts of the kingdom of al-Nuʿmān ibn Mundhir, the king of Hīrah.

Al-Nuʿmān tried to capture him for a long time but failed to do so. 

He became so frustrated that he offered Dhamrah ibn Damrah, a hundred camels to enter into his obedience. And Dhamrah accepted. 

And Dhamrah came to the king. And the king from what he heard from the legends and stories about this man, had high expectations for him. He expected a giant powerful warrior.

But when he saw him, Dhamrah was a small man. And he was of unpleasant appearance.

So the king was disappointed and he said:

تَسْمَعُ بالمُعَيْدِيِّ لا أَنْ تَرَاهُ

“It is best to hear of Muʿaydi and not see him” which is an expression the Arabs use to express disappointment when their expectations of a person are not met when they finally meet him.

فقال ضَمُرَة

مهلاً أيّها الملكُ

So Damra said, ‘Do not be hasty O’ king! 

 إِنَّ الرّجالَ لا يُكَالُونَ بالصِّيعَانِ

For verily men are not measured by the weighing scales. 

وإنما المرءُ بأَصْغَرَيْهِ قَلْبِهِ وَلِسَانِهِ؛ إِنْ قاتَلَ قَاتَلَ بِجَنَانٍ، وَإِنْ نَطَقَ نَطَقَ بِبَيَان

What maketh a man are his two small parts  – his heart and tongue. When he fights he fights with heart and when he speaks he speaks with eloquence.

قال :

صَدَقْتَ، لله درُّكَ! هل لك عِلْمٌ بالأمورِ، والولوجِ فيها؟

The King said: You have spoken the truth. Gifted of Allah, are you!

Do you have knowledge of matters and experience in them? 

قال :

واللهِ إِنِّي لأُبْرِمُ مِنها المَسْحُولَ، وأَنْقُضُ مِنها المَفْتُولَ، وَأُحِيْلُها حتى تَحُولَ، ثم أَنْظُرُ إلى ما يَؤُولُ، وليس للأمورِ بصاحبٍ مَن لا يَنظرُ في العواقبِ.

He said, ‘By Allah, verily I twist back the yarn that has become unspun. And, I unwind that which has been strongly-knotted. I change it until it changes, and then behold that which it becomes.

And, he who does not look at the consequences of matters, is not fit to handle them.

قالَ: صَدَقْتَ للهِ درُّك!

The King said: You have spoken the truth. Gifted of Allah, are you! 

 فأخبرني ما العَجْزُ الظَّاهِرُ، والفَقْرُ الحاضِرُ، والَّداءُ العَيَاءُ، والسَّوْءَةُ السَّوْءَاءُ؟

So tell me what is the evident weakness, the unceasing poverty, the exhausting ailment, and the evil of evils.

قال ضَمُرَةُ :

أَمَّا العَجْزُ الظَّاهِرُ : فالشَّابُّ القَليلُ الحِيْلَةِ، الَّلزُومُ لِلْحَلِيْلَةِ، الذي يَحُومُ حَوْلَها، ويَسْمَعُ قَوْلَها؛ فإِنْ غَضِبَتْ تَرَضَّاها، وَإِنْ رَضِيْت تَفَدَّاها.

Damrah said, as for the evident weakness, it is a youth of little cunning, always by his wife. He hovers about her, and listens to her. If she becomes angry he tries to please her, and if she is pleased he tries to impress her more.

وأمَّا الفَقْرُ الحاضِرُ : فالمَرْءُ لا تَشْبَعُ نَفْسُهُ، وإِنْ كان مِن ذَهَبٍ خِلْسُهُ.

As for the unceasing poverty, it is a man who is not satisfied even if his mount has a saddle cloth of gold.

وأمَّا الدَّاءُ العَيَاءُ : فَجَارُ السُّوءِ؛ إِنْ كان فَوْقَكَ قَهَرَكَ، وَإِنْ كان دُونَكَ هَمَزَكَ، وإِنْ أَعْطَيْتَهُ كَفَرَكَ، وَإِنْ مَنَعْتَهُ شَتَمَكَ، فَإِنْ كان ذلك جارُك فَأَخْلِ لَهُ دارَكَ، وَعَجِّلْ منه فِرَارَكَ وإِلاَّ فَأَقِمْ بِذُلٍّ وَصَغَارٍ، وكُنْ كَكَلْبٍ هَرَّارٍ.

As for the exhausting ailment, it is the bad neighbour. If he is above you he oppresses you, and if he is below he strives to do you harm. If you give him, he is ungrateful, and if you don’t he insults you. So if this is your neighbour, then leave your home for him, and hasten towards your escape; otherwise stay on, in humiliation and abasement, and be like a whining dog.

وأمَّا السَّوْءَةُ السَّوْءَاءُ : فالحَلِيْلَةُ الصَّخَّابَةُ، الخَفِيْفَةُ الوَثَّابَةُ، السَّلِيْطَةُ السَّبَّابَةُ، التي تَعْجَبُ مِن غيرِ عَجَبٍ، وَتَغْضَبُ مِن غيرِ غَضَبٍ، الظَاهِرُ عَيْبُها، والمُخَوِّفُ غَيْبُها، فَزَوْجُها لا يَصْلُحُ له حَالٌ، ولا يَنْعَمُ له بَالٌ؛ إِنْ كان غنيًّا لا يَنْفَعُهُ غِنَاهُ، وإِنْ كان فقيرًا أبَدْتَ له قِلاهُ، فأراحَ اللهُ مِنها بَعْلَها، ولا مَتَّعَ اللهُ بها أَهْلَهَا.

As for the evil of evils, it is a loud wife, jumpy and quick to quarrel, uncouth and vulgar. She is amazed with things unworthy of amazement and angered by things unworthy of anger. Her defect is outwardly visible, and what she hides is frightening. Her husband’s condition never rectifies, and his mind never becomes pleasant. If he is rich, his money does him no good, and if he is poor, its grudge never leaves him. So may Allah free her husband of her, and may He not sustain her family with her.

فأعجب النعمان حسن كلامه وحضور جوابه فأحسن جائزته واحتبسه قبله.

And al-Nuʿmān was impressed by the eloquence of his speech, and the sharpness of his answers. And he saw that he was a worthy ally. 


الكتاب: جمهرة خطب العرب في عصور العربية الزاهرة المؤلف: أحمد زكي صفوت الناشر: المكتبة العلمية بيروت-لبنان عدد الأجزاء: 3 [ترقيم الكتاب موافق للمطبوع وهو مذيل بالحواشي] 

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