Lokman, Surnamed The Wise

, sometimes called Abre Anam, or father of Anam, was a philosopher of great account among the Easterns, but his personal history is involved in much obscurity, and what we have is probably fabulous. Some say he was an Abyssinian of Ethiopia or Nubia, and was sold as a slave among the Israelites, in the reigns of David and Solomon. According to the Arabians, he was tlje son of Baura, son or grandson of a sister | or aunt of Job. Some say he worked as a carpenter, others as a tailor, while a third sort will have him to be a shepherd; however that be, he was certainly an extraordinary person, endowed with great wisdom and eloquence, and we have an account of the particular manner in which he received these divine gifts; being one day asleep about noon, the angels saluted Lokman without making themselves visible, in these terms: “We are the messengers of God, thy creator and ours; and he has sent us to declare to thee that he will make thee a monarch, and his vice-gerent upon earth.” Lokman replied, “If it is by an absolute command of God that I am to become such a one as you say, his will be done in all things; and I hope if this should happen, that he will bestow on me all the grace necessary for enabling me to execute his commands faithfully; however, if he would grant me the liberty to chuse my condition of life, I had rather continue in my present state, and be kept from offending him; otherwise, all the grandeur and splendours of the world would be troublesome to me.” This answer, we are told, was so pleasing to God, that he immediately bestowed on him the gift of wisdom in an eminent degree; and he was able to instruct all men, by a multitude of maxims, sentences, and parables, amounting to ten thousand in number, every one of which his admirers reckon greater than the whole world in value.

This story is evidently of the same cast with that of Solomon, and was perhaps taken from it; but Lokman himself gives a different account of his perfections. Being seated in the midst of a number of people who were listening to him, a man of eminence among the Jews, seeing so great a crowd of auditors round him, asked him, “Whether he was not the black slave who a little before looked after the sheep of a person he named?” To which Lokman assenting; “How has it been possible,” continued the Jew, “for thee to attain so exalted a pitch of wisdom and virtue” Lokman replied, “It was by the following means by always speaking the truth, by keeping my word Inviolably, and by never intermeddling in affairs that did not concern me.” Accordingly, we find inscribed to him this apophthegm: “Be a learned man, disciple of the learned, or an auditor of the learned; at least be a lover of knowledge, and desirous of improvement.” Lokman, it is said, hud not only consummate knowledge, but was | equally good and virtuous; and so many admirable qualifies could not always be held in slavery. His master giving him a bitter melon to eat, Lokman ate it all; when his master, surprised at his exact obedience, says, “Hovr was it possible for you to eat so nauseous a fruit?” Lokman replied, “I have received so many favours from you, that it is no wonder I should once in my life eat a bitter melon from your hand.” This generous answer struck the master to such a degree, that he immediately gave him his liberty.

It is said that he lived three hundred years, and died in the age of the prophet Jonas. He was buried not far from Jerusalem; and his sepulchre was to be seen not above a century ago, at Ramlah, a small town not far from Jerusalem, his remains being deposited near those of the seventy prophets who were starved to death by the Jews, and all died in one day. He was of the Jewish religion, and some time served in the troops of king David, with whom he had been conversant in Palestine, and was greatly esteemed by that monarch. The relics of his fables were published by Erpenius in Arabic and Latin, with his Arabic Grammar, at Leyden, 1636, 4to, and 1656, 4to, and Tannaquil Faber gave an edition of them in elegant Latin verse. Galland translated them into French, with those of Pilpay, in 1714, 2 vols. 12mo; and a new volume was translated into the same language by M. Cardonne, in 1778. There is a more recent French edition by Marcel, in 1799, 4to. The work seems rather a collection of ancient fables than the production of any one writer. From the similarity of many of them to those of JEsop, some have inferred that Lokman and Æsop were different names for the same person but Brucker thinks it more likely that the compiler of these fables had seen those of Æsop, and chose to insert some of them in his collection. Whoever was the writer, the fables afford no inelegant specvmen of the moral doctrine of the Arabians. 1

1 D’Herbclot BiM. Orientate. Gen. Dict. Brucker.