MOST people who come to the Kingdom carry back fond memories of a chain of bookstores called ‘Jarir’, yet not many of us know much about the eponymous poet after whom the chain of stores is presumably named.
He was Jarir Bin ‘Atiyyah Bin Huthayfah Al-Khatfi Bin Badr Al-Kulaibi Al-Yarboo’i, Abu Hazrah, from Banu Kulaib, a sub-tribe of Banu Tamim.
Born to a humble family in Yamamah during the reign of Caliph Uthman Bin Affan, he later moved to Damascus where he lived through the era of the Umayyad Caliphs (648 to 722 CE). It is said that he succeeding in impressing the tyrant governor of Iraq, Al-Hajjaj Bin Yusuf, with his fawning verse, subsequently made a living by penning eulogies in praise of some of the other Umayyad caliphs.
According to an account in Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Jarir was the only ‘court poet’ who was granted an audience by the ascetic Caliph Umar Bin Abdul Aziz. On the occasion, Jarir recited a few couplets of extempore verse, praising ‘Umar Bin Abdul Aziz for his generosity and comparing him favorably with some other past Caliphs, but he was admonished by Umar Bin Abdul Aziz to “stop lying for a living.”
On hearing this, Jarir asked ‘Umar Bin ‘Abdul-’Aziz for some money, since he was poor and had no other means of sustenance. Umar Bin Abdul Aziz said, “If you could prove to me that you are included among the list of people mentioned in the Qur’an who should be helped with alms, I would be the first person to do so.” When Jarir insisted on receiving some money, pleading his poverty, Umar Bin Abdul Aziz gave him 200 Dirhams from his own pocket, taking care to clarify that it was not from the public exchequer. Jarir later said that those two hundred Dirhams brought him such plenitude, that he was not reduced to begging for money ever again.
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