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Al-Tabari as a teacher for a wazir’s son


 

A friend of his knew that the wazir was looking for a tutor for his son, and the friend asked Tabari whether he was willing to accept the position if it was offered to him. Tabari agreed, no doubt eagerly. The friend was able to arrange matters. After first providing him with the proper clothes, he introduced him to the wazir. Ibn Khaaqan gained a good impression of him. He offered him the position and agreed to pay ten dinars per month.

 

In addition, he had a contract drawn up specifying the time Tabari was allowed to devote to study, prayer, eating, and resting, and even gave him upon his request a one-month advance. A well-equipped classroom (hujrat al-ta’dib) for the boy was assigned to Tabari. He instructed him in writing, and his pupil appears to have quickly learned how to write. The writing tablet that demonstrated the boy’s newly acquired skill was taken by servants to his mother and the other slave girls who had borne children to their master (ummahat al-walad) as proof of the good news.

 

The overjoyed ladies filled a tray with dirhams and dinars and sent it with the servants back to Tabari. He, however, refused to accept the money. He had, he said, a contract with the wazir to be paid a certain sum and was not entitled to any further compensation. The matter was submitted to the wazir who summoned him and told him that he was wrong to reject the well-meant gift of the women and had offended them by not accepting it. Tabari argued that the women were slaves and legally owned no property of their own. He obviously implied that it was really the wazir who was the source of the money and who therefore was paying more than had been agreed upon in the contract.

Tabari learned a lesson from this occurrence. Later on, when friends would bring him a gift of food, it was his established custom (sunnah) to accept it as being, in contrast to money, merely a token gift; but, prompted by his socially proper attitude (muruwwah), he would make an appropriate return gift. This taught his friends that it would be inadvisable to press gifts on him.

 

[Ibn ‘Asakir, LXXV; adh-Dhahabi, Nubala XIV, 271]

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